Manama: Bahrain yesterday appeared to be an increasingly divided nation as two massive demonstrations with different purposes took place in different areas in the capital.

Protesters walked out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Roundabout, popularly known as the Pearl Roundabout, in the western outskirts of Manama, to the interior ministry.

Waving white and red flags, protesters moved slowly towards the ministry, locally known as the Fort, to press for the release of prisoners.

Bahraini authorities last week freed 308 convicts and prisoners as a gesture of appeasement by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa.

Among those pardoned were the 23 men arrested in August on charges of belonging to a network that plotted to undermine Bahrain's stability and security.

Two other men, Hassan Mushaima and Said Al Shihabi, who allegedly were members of the group, but were living in London at the time of the trial were also pardoned.

Mushaima, who was barred from boarding his flight to Bahrain while in transit in Beirut, gave a speech at the Pearl Roundabout which was the epicentre of the February 14 protests.

At the other end of the sprawling city, the National Unity Rally, a newly formed group serving as an umbrella for people claim that their voices have been long ignored in the country, organised a massive rally, mainly to assert their presence.

Following prayers at Al Fateh Mosque, the country's largest place of worship, the demonstrators, waving the serrated flags of Bahrain, said that their message was to promote Bahrain as an undivided country where Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Jews and others could live in peace as their fathers had done for decades.

Sectarian overtones

In a rally where size is as important as the message, the demonstrators had all day long urged people to join them in the Juffair area.

It was the second show of strength by the rally and its supporters in as many weeks and insisted that they should be consulted on all decisions affecting the nation.

Demonstrations have been held on a daily basis in Bahrain and while people breathed a deep sigh of relief when the rally to the interior ministry ended without clashes or confrontations, mass expressions have not always been peaceful in the country.

On Monday, girls in a high school were involved in a brawl after an exchange of criticism with sectarian overtones degenerated into a physical fight. The school used all its resources to separate the protagonists and parents promptly pulled their daughters from the school in Hamad Town, one of the most sect-mixed areas in Bahrain.