Police tear gas opposition protesters headed for Islamabad ‘lockdown’
Islamabad, Oct 31 (IANS) Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) protesters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they were proceeding towards Islamabad to join the party’s planned November 2 ‘lockdown’ of the Pakistani capital seeking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over alleged corruption.
The protesters were attempting to remove barricades placed on the roads using cranes in Swabi, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, when law enforcement personnel resorted to tear gas shelling and firing rubber bullets to force them to retreat, DawnNews reported.
The area is an hour and a half’s drive away from Islamabad.
The barricades were placed on both sides of the Motorway while heavy contingents of policemen and Frontier Constabulary personnel were present on the roads.
According to Dunya News, PTI workers turned violent and set ablaze eight police vehicles and around ten motorcycles at Haroon Bridge in Swabi while clearing huge containers placed as barricades by police to stop their entry into Islamabad.
Security forces also subjected the convoy of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister (CM), Pervez Khattak, who belongs to the PTI, and party activists to shelling of tear gas as they attempted to enter Punjab to reach Islamabad.
In Islamabad, PTI leaders Arif Alvi and Imran Ismail were released after a brief detention by police on Monday.
The two men were taken into custody near Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence after they threatened to launch a sit-in in the area to protest the arrests of party workers, Dawn reported.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior said the Prime Minister had issued directives for removal of all barricades on highways linking KP to Punjab.
Earlier on Monday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) reiterated its earlier order that the PTI should hold its planned sit-in within limits of the ‘Democracy Park and Speech Corner’, located near Islamabad’s Parade Ground and ordered the PTI chief to appear in court.
The PTI said it would challenge the court’s order in the apex court.
The clashes on Monday at Swabi were one of the many in different cities that erupted in the wake of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s call to ‘shut down’ Islamabad on November 2 if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not offer himself for accountability of his wealth.
Khan had on September 30 announced a sit-in in the federal capital against alleged corruption by the premier and his government.
The PTI has led numerous protests across the country after the Panama Papers published leaked documents of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in April revealing offshore companies owned by Sharif and his family members, Dunya News reported.