Pakistan arrests opposition activists
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani police arrested anti-government protesters in what activists said was an effort to crack down on weekslong sit-ins in the capital, while the government said police only apprehended suspects in a recent attack on state-run TV.
The party of famed cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who is leading one of two major protests demanding the government’s resignation, said a large number of party activists were detained in overnight raids beginning late Friday in Islamabad and elsewhere. He did not provide an exact number.
“We are suspending talks with the government over these arrests,” party leader Jehanghir Tareen told a news conference.
Anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has been leading parallel demonstrations, said police had also detained his supporters, and that he too would be suspending talks over the arrests.
Pakistani news channels had earlier showed several detained supporters of Qadri and Khan arriving at a local court in two prison vans. Khan’s party leaders and dozens of activists briefly clashed with police as they tried to break the locks of the vans to free the detainees.
Police eventually pushed them back, and Islamabad police chief Tahir Alam warned that anyone attacking the police vans would be arrested.
Khan and Qadri arrived in the capital last month in massive convoys that had set out from the eastern city of Lahore. Since then thousands of demonstrators have been camped outside parliament demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign over alleged voting fraud in last year’s election.