Imran Khan's ‘Azadi March’ in Lahore turns violent as cops fire tear gas | Top updates
Pakistani authorities blocked roads and arrested several supporters of the PTI in a bid to derail the ‘Azadi March’ called by Imran Khan, a day after the government banned their rally to prevent them from “propagating their misleading agenda".
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters and the Lahore Police clashed on Wednesday as the former managed to push their way through the containers deployed on the streets and braved tear gas shelling after answering the ousted prime minister's call for a long march onto Islamabad.
Pakistani authorities blocked roads and arrested several supporters of the PTI in a bid to derail the Azadi March called by Khan, a day after the government banned their rally to prevent them from “propagating their misleading agenda".
On Saturday, Khan, 69, had asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and fresh elections in the country.
Pakistan’s coalition government-led by Shehbaz Sharif, however, has rejected the demand, saying the government will complete its tenure and the polls would be held next year.
Prime Minister Sharif’s coalition government initially allowed the protest but on Tuesday refused to give permission, fearing violence and lawlessness in the wake of the march.
Latest updates on Azadi March in Lahore:
> Visuals on social media show police resorting to tear gas after PTI supporters reportedly tried to remove the containers placed on the routes exiting Lahore.
> PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, and Shafqat Mehmood were leading the workers. The party supporters hurled stones at the police.
> After several hours of political drama and chaos, the government reached an agreement with the party to stop further havoc after initially disallowing the march, Geo News reported. Following the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on PTI holding a ‘jalsa’ instead of a long march, it reported.
> Geo News reported that the police have so far arrested more than 10 PTI workers.
> On Wednesday, a crackdown started in various cities and police arrested hundreds of PTI workers and some of its leaders to stop them from joining the protest known as “Azadi March”.
> The government also imposed Section 144 to ban large gatherings in Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and Karachi, as well as other major cities.
> Punjab home secretary Syed Ali Murtaza told the media that paramilitary Rangers were called to help police to keep peace in the largest province, which would be a key to mobilising sizable protestors. More than 4,000 police personnel from other districts of Punjab have been called to Islamabad.
> Barricades were erected around Lahore and the twin cities to stop vehicles from entering or going out, bringing life and traffic to a standstill.
> Major roads, including the Grand Trunk Road and the M-2 Motorway, linking Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with Islamabad were blocked to stop the protestors from coming to the capital. Khan had announced to lead the marchers from the province, where his PTI has the government.
> Educational institutions have been closed in the twin cities and all examinations for students cancelled.
(With inputs from agencies)