Posts Tagged ‘protests aimed at preventing government offices from functioning’

Pakistani Police Detain 1,500 in Crackdown on Opposition

October 31, 2016

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani police launched a nation-wide crackdown overnight, arresting at least 1,500 supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan ahead of an opposition rally planned later this week in Islamabad, officials said Monday.

The arrests followed intermittent clashes over the weekend between Khan’s supporters and riot police in the capital that saw police using tear gas and batons to fight stone-throwing activists.

The violence erupted again Monday when police fired tear gas on nearly 3,000 supporters on a main highway some 80 kilometer northwest of Islamabad. Khan’s party rules in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its chief minister, Pervez Khattak, and some cabinet ministers led the protesters.

Police official Hussain Awan said the protesters pelted police with stones and bricks and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had warned Sunday that the government would extend protocol to Khattak if he arrived in the capital formally but that he would be dealt with strictly if he led the protesters.

On Monday, a Pakistani court barred Khan’s followers from demonstrating on Islamabad streets, restricting the rally to within the limits of a city park, said government prosecutor Saddique Awan. As of last week, the government has already enforced a two-month ban on street rallies in the capital.

Khan’s attorney Babar Awan said the party would appeal. The party has called for massive street demonstrations for Wednesday, threatening to lock down Islamabad in a bid to force Sharif to resign.

Sharif has been under pressure after his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Police have conducted raids based on tips and information about planned violence, said government spokesman Zaeem Qadri. Those who pledge not to take part in violent actions are released, while those considered a threat remain in custody pending charges, he said.

Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the number of those arrested overnight ranges between 1,500 and 1,800. Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said 838 supporters were arrested.

Police have placed shipping containers on key highways leading to Islamabad to stop Khan’s party’s convoys from across Pakistan from reaching the capital.

The interior minister said Khan’s followers had violent plans, which included the storming of government offices.

Khan’s close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that the police were manhandling and roughing up the family members of the workers. “The police are also trespassing on the houses of our leaders and activists,” he said. He said two senior leaders of the party were forcibly bundled in a police van. Both were later released on orders from the interior minister.

Sanaullah denied any manhandling.


Associated Press Writer Zaheer Babar in Lahore, Pakistan, contributed to this report.



Pakistan vows to crush anti-government protests

October 31, 2016

Opposition leader Imran Khan calls for a ‘lockdown’ of the capital, Islamabad

Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan chanted antigovernment slogans outside his residence in Islamabad on Friday.
Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan chanted antigovernment slogans outside his residence in Islamabad on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The government of Pakistan vowed on Sunday to prevent an opposition political protest planned for later this week, amid tension between the administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s powerful military.

Police blocked roads into the capital, Islamabad, over the weekend after prominent opposition leader Imran Khan, who is leading the protest movement, on Thursday said he would paralyze the city with what he called a “lockdown.” Mr. Khan and his supporters have called for a Wednesday start to protests aimed at preventing government offices from functioning.

Mr. Khan is protesting what he alleges is corruption by Mr. Sharif, which Mr. Sharif denies, after it emerged that the prime minister’s family owned offshore companies. Police and paramilitary forces have surrounded Mr. Khan’s home, on a hilltop outside Islamabad, and dozens of his supporters have been arrested.

The government is at odds with the armed forces over a range of issues, including information leaked to a newspaper about a meeting between top government and military officials. The fallout led to the resignation of information minister Pervaiz Rashid over the weekend.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a news conference Sunday that the government doesn’t object to peaceful protests, but a lockdown of Islamabad won’t be permitted. He claimed that the closing of roads to the capital had stopped 1,200 armed protesters from reaching Islamabad.

“Lockdown of the capital is not just a crime against the government, it’s a crime against the state,” said the interior minister, who isn’t related to the opposition leader.

Imran Khan, a cricketer turned politician, leads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the third-largest party in parliament. He insists all his supporters are peaceful.

“There is an impression being created that we’re going to cause unrest, but we’ve never been involved in the politics of guns. Peaceful protest is our democratic right,” Mr. Khan said Sunday.

Mr. Sharif was prime minister twice before, in the 1990s, and both his governments were cut short by military intervention before the completion of his terms in office. Since democracy was restored in 2008 after the most-recent spell of military rule, the armed forces have said they support democracy and aren’t involved in politics. Mr. Sharif returned to power by sweeping the 2013 election.

But Mr. Sharif fears that history is about to repeat itself, his advisers say, with a case being built against him again on alleged corruption and the suggestion that he is a national-security risk.

“We know this script,” said an aide.

A 2014 demonstration led by Imran Khan, which lasted four months, weakened the premier and forced the government to cede to the army more sway over policy, Mr. Sharif’s aides say. They allege Mr. Khan was supported then by parts of the military—something he and the military deny.

The military and the government have continued to tussle over the levers of power. Government officials say that army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif is pressing the government to extend his term, which is due to end in late November. The military denies that, saying Gen. Sharif wants to retire on time. He isn’t related to the prime minister.

The two sides have clashed over the military’s desire to expand its counterterrorism operations to the prime minister’s home province of Punjab, Mr. Sharif’s policy of outreach to rival India and control of the $46 billion program of Chinese infrastructure investment into Pakistan.

Dawn, a Pakistani daily newspaper, this month reported Mr. Sharif’s administration had complained to the military that inaction against jihadist groups targeting neighboring countries was leading to international isolation. The military says it is cracking down on all terrorists. Both the military and the government have described the article, which led to Mr. Rashid’s resignation, as “fabricated.”

Mr. Khan is demanding the prime minister resign or “submit himself for accountability” after Mr. Sharif’s children were named as owners of fancy London apartments through offshore holding companies in reports based on documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panama-based law firm.

The reports, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier this year, didn’t allege any wrongdoing. Mr. Sharif’s opponents accuse him of laundering ill-gained wealth through offshore companies. The Sharif family has denied any wrongdoing, saying its wealth is based on legitimate businesses.

“We’re doing this [protest] because the prime minister was caught red-handed, because of the Panama Papers,” Mr. Khan said Sunday.

Mr. Sharif had said Friday that Mr. Khan wants to harm his government because the opposition are worried the ruling party will win the next election, due in 2018.

“Pakistan is on its way to becoming a developed country. That’s what concerns the opposition,” Mr. Sharif said on Friday. “If this development continues in Pakistan until 2018, their politics will be finished.”

Write to Saeed Shah at