Police arrest 1,500 opposition supporters in Pakistan
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 protesters.
The violence erupted again Monday when police fired tear gas at nearly 3,000 supporters on a main highway some 80 kilometres (50 miles) 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, burned several vehicles 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.
Amnesty International expressed concern over the situation demanding that Pakistani authorities release opposition activists and allow demonstrators to exercise their right to peaceful assembly.