News / Asia

    Pakistan Opposition Refuses to Halt Protests

    Pakistani protesters help escort their injured colleague to an ambulance during a protest near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014.
    Pakistani protesters help escort their injured colleague to an ambulance during a protest near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014.
    Ayaz Gul

    Pakistan’s powerful military convened an unprecedented meeting of its top leadership on Sunday, amid continuing clashes between police and protesters who demand that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down. Violence since Saturday has left at least three people dead and more than 400 wounded.

    The clashes erupted late Thursday after thousands of protesters tried to storm the building that serves as the office and home for the Pakistani prime minister. Security forces responded by firing tear gas shells and rubber bullets at the demonstrators.
     
    Clashes continued intermittently throughout Sunday as protesters, some armed with clubs and hammers, threw stones at riot police, who fired tear gas.

    Ongoing demonstrations

    Thousands of protesters have camped out in Islamabad since August 14. They are led by opposition leader Imran Khan and a populist anti-government cleric, Tahir-ul-Qadri. Both want Sharif out of office and for new elections to be held under a reformed national electoral process.
     
    Khan addressed his supporters Sunday night and vowed not to back down unless Sharif steps down. Khan called on his supporters from all over the country to break through barricades to reach the protest zone.
     
    Khan told the rally, “God willing we will confront the police and you need to show the same resolve you demonstrated the other day, despite the massive illegal police crackdown on peaceful protesters.”
     
    On Sunday, Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif chaired a meeting of his top commanders and warned the government “further use of force will only aggravate” the political unrest.

    Military statement

    A military statement quoted him as reiterating that the standoff should be resolved politically without wasting any time, and without recourse to violent means. While reaffirming support for democracy, the commander reviewed with serious concerns the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken.
     
    Analysts suggest the statement appears to be aimed at dispelling a dominant perception that the military is secretly backing the protests to make way for another coup in Pakistan by exploiting weaknesses of the elected government.   
     
    Pakistani police also have attacked television crews and other journalists covering the demonstrations.
     
    The police action has wounded several cameramen with local news channels; some have suffered serious injuries. Television footage shows policemen dragging crew members out of broadcasting vans and beating them with sticks.  The violence outraged groups campaigning for journalists’ rights, condemning it as a direct assault on media freedom.  

    Joint session

    A federal minister, Saad Rafique, promised the government will investigate and punish those responsible for the aggression against the media.
     
    "No disciplined force like police can be allowed to carry out such brutal and barbaric assaults," said Rafique, adding that it has "embarrassed the government and weakened its case.”  
     
    Prime Minister Sharif, who refuses to step down, convened a meeting of his senior ministers at his official residence Sunday to discuss the political standoff, while the nearby Constitutional Avenue looked like a war zone.
     
    Officials say the meeting condemned mob attacks on “symbols of the state,” calling them undemocratic and unconstitutional. Officials also say they “appreciated” steps the police have taken to defeat protesters’ designs.

    The prime minister has decided to convene a joint session of the parliament to discuss the mass protests calling for his ouster, according to officials.

     

     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sanaullah from: Multan, Pakistan
    September 01, 2014 12:16 PM
    The majority of Pakistani people are poor and frustrated. They want quick change to get rid of their misery. They cannot tolerate any new government for more than a year. The rabble rousers especially the politicians who had lost the last elections understand very well this secret. The establishment including parts of the judicial system wants to keep power in their own hands to enjoy their perks. They see the disgruntled politicians as their allies and join hands with them to create a law and order situation to topple the government.

    Alas some foreign hands also come into the fray. The powers who have guns prevail in the end and unseat the government. This is a pattern that has been repeated before all previous martial laws. Once the disgruntled politicians force their way into power, they take an about turn and immediately take steps to maintain the status quo of keeping power in establishment's hands. The people then are kept high and dry, poor and miserable. The show on this pattern is now on and continuing till the desired results are achieved.

    by: erikZ
    September 01, 2014 3:56 AM
    As seen up close, the protestors were not storming any building, they're clearing the containers that were placed on the road to prevent the protest march. When suddenly supporters of the prime minister wearing police uniforms started shooting at the crowd (which included women and children) & shelling them with expired Tear Gas. The gassing of the public continued for nearly six hours resulting in 12 deaths and over 400 injuries, some of them in critical condition.

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    August 31, 2014 11:02 PM
    I cannot understand why PM Party is not willing to give justice to common Pakistani. This is very sad affairs that PM came from Saudi Arabia after 10 Years, even then he did not learn any thing from past mistake. He did not catch any human killer, looters, Tax evaders or any Criminals in the last 14 months. Pakistani Court gave death penalty to Human Killers because he is supporter of Terrorist Group he stop to implement court orders. If He wants to complete Five Years, then he has to show some actions against Human Killers or Criminals. Other wise very difficult job for him to compete his tenure. Terrorist Group will not give life to his Govt, only with honest Govt he can compete his tenure. Better to give some fresh air to Pakistani. Pakistani feel suffocation under this situation. PM has army of Minsters more than 100 for Poor Pakistan, who breath because of foreign loan. If PM wants him self as Good PM, then give Education. Business Climate, safety and security to Pakistani. No body can live long in this world on false promise. He wasted important time on Musarraf case and wasted more then TWO months to negotiate with Human Killers TALIBAN. Better to control expenditure and improve efficiency will save him.

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