A Pakistani minister was beaten up by angry journalists in Islamabad on Saturday as riot police clashed with lawyers and opposition activists agitating against President Pervez Musharraf's re-election bid, leaving scores of people injured.
Police used batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse the slogan shouting lawyers who were carrying black flags and turned their ire on journalists and TV cameramen covering the protests live near the Election Commission office.
Angry over the police action, journalists pulled out Minister of State for Information Tariq Azim, who tried to get out of the Election Commission in an ambulance, and thrashed him, TV channels reported.
Azim had along with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz gone to the Election Commission to witness the scrutiny of nomination papers for the October six Presidential elections. The minister was rescued by a police patrol.
Authorities blacked out independent news TV channels after they showed footage of the violent protests with police coming down heavily on agitating lawyers, observing a 'Black Day' against the Supreme Court's ruling allowing Musharraf to contest for a second term as President while remaining as Army chief.
The protesters, who chanted "Go Musharraf, go", tried to approach the office of Election Commission near the Supreme Court building.
Several senior lawyers, including Ali Ahmed Kurd, were arrested, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Munir A Mallik said.
The police also prevented activists of opposition Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim League-N parties from marching towards the office of Chief Election Commissioner, arresting scores of workers.
An opposition member of parliament Khwaja Muhamamd Asif said political activists were arrested and taken to police stations in Islamabad.
Three major TV channels Geo, ARY and Aaj TV said they were blacked out in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and most parts of the country.
The state-run Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMA) had warned all TV channels against airing programmes, talk shows and interviews in which comments are offered on courts matters.
"I am not receiving cable since 11 am," Muhammad Wasim-ul-Haq, an Islamabad resident of said.
A cable operator said that the major cable provider Webcom disconnected the three major news channels. It is not the first time the government has forced the cable TV providers to take the news channels off air. Such closures take place whenever any major developments happen in the country.