Authorities blocked all major roads leading to Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad on Wednesday in an attempt to shut down a protest march by former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Clashes broke out between police and protesters.
“No obstacle can stop us, we will cross all the barriers and will reach… Islamabad,” Khan declared from atop a truck after making a dramatic arrival in a helicopter to join his supporters some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the capital.
Khan maintained that Wednesday’s rally would be massive and not end until the government agrees to hold fresh elections this year. Parliamentary elections are currently scheduled for 2023.
What was the government reaction to the planned Khan rally?
Authorities had blocked entry to Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Peshawar, as crowds of Khan supporters clashed with police.
The main highway leading into Islamabad was blocked with shipping containers overnight, with authorities putting together similar obstacles on other routes into the capital. Islamabad police published a traffic plan showcasing a complete blockade of the city amid heavy security presence.
“Nobody should be allowed to besiege the capital and dictate his terms,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday.
Organizers planned for protesters to travel by car and bus to the capital’s city limits, after which they would march on foot.
By Wednesday Khan supporters were trying to tear down blockades outside Lahore and Faizabad, including with an excavator, while police fired tear gas at them.
Why is there tension between Khan and the government?
A day earlier, a policeman was killed during a raid on the home of a Khan supporter in Lahore, prompting a crackdown from the government.
Khan did not condemn the policeman’s killing, but defended the shooter — a retired army officer and official of his party — by asking what a person should do if police forcibly entered their home.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has accused authorities of arresting and detaining hundreds of its supporters in raids overnight, while the government and police said some protestors planned to join the march with weapons.
Following his dismissal, he and his followers have held several rallies across the country in the hope of bringing down a fragile coalition government and forcing early elections.
Khan has maintained that a United States-organized plot was behind his removal, accusing Washington of colluding with his successor Shahbaz Sharif. The US has denied any role in the Pakistan’s internal politics.
see, er/rt (AP, AFP)
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