Three Killed, Over 400 Injured as Protesters Clash With Police in Pakistan
Photograph in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper showing the Army trying to control the protesters.
NEW DELHI: Three people were killed and almost 400 injured in clashes with the police, as thousands of anti-government protesters led by by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), marched toward Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence.
Thousands of protesters have been camping out in Islamabad, calling for Sharif’s resignation. The overnight violence this past weekend has raised the stakes, with PTI leader Imran Khan directly implicating Sharif. “"Police action against innocent people should be condemned. We will fire an FIR against Nawaz Sharif," Khan said, adding, “Nawaz has killed innocent people. We will won't budge till Sharif resigns.”
The protests, which began on Pakistan’s Independence Day - August 14, are led by PTI’s Khan and PAT’s Tahirul Qadri. Pakistani media reported that whilst PTI’s main demand was to push for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, PAT’s agenda was centred on the resignation of the Pakistani Prime Minister’s brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
As Khan and Qadri pushed through with their demands, the National Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the PTI’s and PAT’s “unconstitutional demands.”
Earlier, the United States issued a strong statement condemning Khan and Qadri’s actions, saying extra-constitutional transfer of power in Pakistan is unacceptable, and that those “attempting to impose these changes” should refrain from doing so. “Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister. There is a government that was elected and is in place,” Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokesperson, said, adding ““We support the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan...That was a process they followed, an election they had, and we are focused on working with Pakistan… And we do not support any extra-constitutional changes to that democratic system or the people attempting to impose them.”
Khan, in turn, accused the US of interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) government is a “servant of the US” that “polishes the shoes of the Americans”.
Referring to his main charge, Khan, who is calling for Sharif’s resignation based on suspicions that the elections were rigged, asked, “If an election took place in the US and a Congressman said that a majority of the votes could not be verified, wouldn't that constitute a full blown enquiry in America?”
Qadri, who has found common ground with Khan on the issue of Sharif’s resignation, differs on the grounds that the PAT movement, instead of calling for fresh elections as Khan is, wants to replace the current government with a national government composed of technocrats.
Although the Sharif government had not moved to stop the marches, its actions demonstrated that it took the challenge seriously. This would explain the ban on gatherings, the impounding of vehicles, the closing of petrol stations and the deployment of troops to Islamabad. Ironically however, Sharif’s decision to deploy the army has given his critics more fodder, seemingly indicating that Pakistan’s civilian administration is still heavily reliant on the country’s military, which has ruled Pakistan through a series of coups, for protection.