| Human rights activist Asma Jehangir (right) being arrested in Lahore. (AFP)
Lahore, May 14 (Agencies): Pakistani police detained about 30 people today, including a prominent human rights activist, for defying a ban on women running in a road race through Lahore, witnesses and police said.
Authorities banned women from competing in such races after Islamic hard-liners ' who regard women’s participation as against Islam ' attacked runners at a similar event elsewhere in Punjab province last month.
Asma Jehangir, the former chief of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, and about 30 other male and female participants were detained at today’s race, police official Waqar Abbasi said. The race was cancelled because of the arrests.
He said police and other government officials had asked race organisers to obey the ban, but they refused.
However, one of the organisers, Nabeel Ahmed, said the arrests were “unjustified” and that participants had not committed any crime.
Police said 13 supporters of an Islamic religious group were also arrested.
A Reuters photographer said police also beat and arrested protesters from Islamist parties who had planned to attack participants in the race.
“When people started running the police baton charged them, beat them and arrested them, pulling people by the hair, pulling women by the hair,” Ali Dayan-Hasan, a Pakistani researcher for Human Rights Watch, said from a police cell where he was being held with more than 20 others.
Dayan-Hasan, who was observing the race, said up to 50 people, mostly women, had gone just a few metres before the police charged. He presumed the others detained were taken to another police station.
The incident is the latest in Pakistan to pit conservative Islamists against more liberal elements in the country. President Pervez Musharraf said this year people who objected to women taking part in sports in public should switch off their television sets.