Pak­istani po­lice and op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers clash in Islamabad

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pak­istani riot po­lice yes­ter­day used tear gas and ba­tons to fight stone throw­ing sup­port­ers of crick­eter-turned-politi­cian Im­ran Khan, seiz­ing weapons and de­tain­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple when they at­tempted to reach Islamabad for an anti-govern­ment rally sched­uled next week.

The clashes have been tak­ing place in­ter­mit­tently since Fri­day, when the govern­ment im­posed a ban on all ral­lies and protests in the cap­i­tal. They erupted again yes­ter­day near Khan’s sub­ur­ban home and at sev­eral places on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal. Khan has vowed to lock down Islamabad on Nov. 2 to de­mand the res­ig­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif.

“The mes­sage we’re get­ting is that they’re go­ing to block Islamabad,” Pak­istan’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news con­fer­ence. He al­leged the op­po­si­tion party had plans to storm into Pak­istan’s sec­re­tar­iat, the main govern­ment of­fice. He said the govern­ment will not let any­one dis­rupt life in the cap­i­tal. “This is my re­spon­si­bil­ity that schools re­main open and peo­ple go to their of­fices,” he said.

Im­ran Khan in 2014 held a months-long sit-in protest out­side Pak­istan’s par­lia­ment in Islamabad to force Sharif to quit, al­leg­ing that the premier had rigged the 2013 elec­tions. The for­mer cricket star sus­pended his party’s protests af­ter a Tale­ban at­tack in De­cem­ber that year in Pe­shawar killed 150 peo­ple, mostly school chil­dren. Khan said yes­ter­day that he didn’t have any vi­o­lent plans, but the cap­i­tal will lock down it­self when tens of thou­sands of peo­ple march in the streets.

Yes­ter­day, po­lice blocked nearly 1,500 of Khan’s armed sup­port­ers from en­ter­ing the cap­i­tal, the in­te­rior min­is­ter said. Nearly 100 of them were ar­rested, he said. He said the po­lice seized seven Kalash­nikov ri­fles, one tear gas gun and seven bul­let proof vests, in­clud­ing one driven by one of Khan’s min­is­ters from the north­west­ern prov­ince where his party rules.

The govern­ment has also used ship­ping con­tain­ers to block the main high­way con­nect­ing the prov­ince with the cap­i­tal to stop the op­po­si­tion party work­ers from reach­ing Islamabad. Sharif has been un­der pres­sure from op­po­si­tion par­ties for months af­ter sev­eral of his fam­ily mem­bers were named as hold­ers of off­shore bank ac­counts in leaked fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments from Pana­ma­nian law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca. Sharif, serv­ing his third term as prime min­is­ter, has re­fused to quit but says he’ll face an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Pak­istan’s Supreme Court has re­port­edly set­tled on a panel of judges who will hear the case on Nov 1, a day be­fore the protest. — AP

ISLAMABAD: Politi­cian Im­ran Khan, cen­ter, is sur­rounded by his sup­port­ers as he speaks to jour­nal­ists out­side his res­i­dence. — AP

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