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Ex-cricket star and backers are detained to foil a protest

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Police detained a former cricket star, Imran Khan, and supporters of his opposition party to prevent a protest yesterday against President Bush's visit to Pakistan, police and witnesses said.

Police beat and arrested at least 16 people who had been chanting slogans against Bush and the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf.

Police ordered a handful of other demonstrators to go home, or else, authorities warned, they would be arrested.

A party official who was not named said dozens of members had been rounded up before the protest.

Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said such actions were ''meant for the limited purpose of maintaining law and order."

Khan said his party had planned peaceful ''pro-democracy" demonstrations against Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, and Bush's visit. ''Bush professes his policy is to support freedom and democracy and here he is supporting a military dictator," Khan said in a telephone interview with CNN.

In Karachi, about 500 people gathered at small rallies, chanting, ''Killer of Afghans -- George Bush!" and ''Killer of Iraq -- George Bush!"

About 100 Islamists held a peaceful rally in the eastern city of Multan, and about 50 Shi'ite Muslims gathered in Lahore.

Khan, a former star cricket captain who has often criticized Musharraf and the US-led war on terrorism, was leaving a friend's home after dinner at about 1 a.m. when he was served with a detention order and driven to his lakeside Islamabad home in a police convoy, said a spokesman, Akbar S. Babar said.

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press, confirmed that Khan was detained at his home.

Khan, the sole lawmaker from the Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, party is widely respected in Pakistan for leading the cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup.

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