Two PTI workers die due to shelling ahead of Islamabad lockdown
ISLAMABAD: Two workers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) died and several others injured in varying incidents of police shelling during the last two days, ARY News reported on Tuesday.
PTI leadership has asked the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of the killings and arrests of its workers by the Punjab police on the orders of the government.
Imtiaz Shahid, Law Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said one of the party workers was from Peshawar who died due to heavy tear gas shelling by police late on Monday.
Talking to ARY News, the provincial law minister vowed to register a case against the centre for killing the party worker when a convoy of PTI tried to enter Islamabad yesterday.
Clashes broke out between the two parties soon after sunrise when the Punjab police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell angry protesters on Tuesday.
Police on Monday fired tear gas to scatter hundreds of anti-government PTI workers and supporters heading for the capital after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) cleared the way for Chairman PTI Imran Khan to hold a mass protest on November 2.
Television images showed the crowd approaching roadblocks amid clouds of tear gas as night fell near the town of Swabi, about 70 km (44 miles) from Islamabad, on the Burhan Interchange.
Earlier, the IHC had dismissed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government challenges to PTI’s planned protest on November 2, however, ordered Khan to hold the demonstration on the Parade Ground – far from Islamabad’s main government and commercial districts.
During the hearing, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also ordered the government to ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of residents of the capital to go about their daily lives.
Chairman PTI has threatened to ‘shutdown’ Islamabad in his push to unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on grounds of alleged corruption linked to the infamous ‘Panama Papers’ leak.
On Sunday, however, he clarified that his rallying cry to stop the government from functioning was not a direct threat, but rather a prediction of events if his supporters flooded into the city.
He also dismissed accusations his planned shutdown of Islamabad could lead to a military coup, saying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “can’t hide behind ‘democracy in danger'” to quash protests.
He has vowed to bring a million people into Islamabad on Wednesday to paralyse the government and force Sharif either to resign or allow an inquiry into the “Panama Papers” revelations about his family’s offshore wealth.
Arrest and protests
Ahead of the protest on November 2, the political tension has sparked periodic clashes between PTI supporters and the police particularly in Punjab also a stronghold of PML-N, who have arrested scores of opposition workers and used tear gas to disperse protesters defying a citywide ban on public gatherings.
Amnesty International has called on Pakistan to release hundreds of opposition activists detained before a planned mass protest, as police used tear gas and rubber bullets overnight to prevent demonstrators from entering Islamabad.
Crackdown around Bani Gala continued where several PTI workers including women were taken into custody by police officials.
Senior PTI leaders Arif Alvi and Imran Ismail were briefly detained on Monday and bundled into a police van near Khan’s home. However, the interior minister swiftly ordered their release.
Last week, the government outlawed gatherings of more than five people in Islamabad and neighbouring Rawalpindi. Scores of Khan’s party workers have been arrested since the party says.
Fears of instability
Khan’s latest challenge to Sharif’s government is based on leaked documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm that appear to show the prime minister’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London. Sharif’s family denies wrongdoing.
The government said it would take part in a probe, but rejected the opposition’s formula focused on Sharif’s family rather than making it broad based. Sharif’s own name did not appear in the Panama Papers.
In 2014, Imran Khan led a months-long occupation that paralysed Islamabad’s government quarter after rejecting Sharif’s decisive election win a year earlier.
The prospect of similar protests again has hit the local stock market, stoking fears of political instability just as the sputtering economy was starting to rebound.
“When you see a million people in Islamabad, trust me, the city will shut down,” said Khan.