Police have used tear gas to scatter thousands of anti-government demonstrators near Islamabad. The clashes come ahead of an anti-government demonstration led by opposition leader Imran Khan.
Thousands of Imran Khan's supporters met with resistance from police on Monday as they marched toward Islamabad to take part in a massive anti-government demonstration to be held later in the week.
The clashes took place on a highway more than 30 miles (around 50 km) outside Islamabad, where police had set up roadblocks in an effort to stop demonstrators from reaching the city. Police used tear gas as opposition members reportedly wielding sticks attempted to remove the barricades.
It's the most recent clash to take place between government authorities and members of the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party founded by Khan, the cricket-star-turned-politician seeking to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Khan has said that he wants to "shut down" the government following revelations that Sharif's children held offshore bank accounts, information first made public by the "Panama Papers" leak earlier in the year.
"One million people will come out in Islamabad day after tomorrow," Khan said on Monday. "The whole of Pakistan is watching to see whether these police whose salaries are paid by us are really police or the personal guards of the Sharif family."
The clashes followed a decision by the Islamabad High Court on Monday to partially lift a ban on protests imposed last week. The court ruled in favor of the opposition, but said Khan must hold his demonstration far from the city center.
Scores of PTI supporters were arrested affter the ban was first imposed last week. The party's deputy secretary-general, Imran Ismail, said he and fellow PTI member Arif Alvi had been "arrested brutally" on Twitter and posted a selfie of them being detained by police.
On Thursday, the same day the ban was imposed, police raided one of PTI's youth meetings in Islamabad and arrested participants. The government said the rally had not been authorized by local authorities.
In response to the raid, Khan said his party would defy all bans. "No power can stop our rally...It is our legal, democratic, constitutional right," he said.
Khan's demonstration comes at an awkward time for Sharif, who, in addition to the revelations from the "Panama Papers," is also dealing with the political fallout from an article published by the prestigious "Dawn" newspaper early in October. The story reported that civilian members of his government had warned the military to disassociate itself from terrorist groups, just as tensions have risen between Pakistan and India following repeated skirmishes in the disputed region of Kashmir.
blc/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)