News / Asia

    Reports: Hundreds Injured in Islamabad Protests

    Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Aug. 30, 3014.
    Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Aug. 30, 3014.
    Ayaz Gul

    More than 300 people have been reported injured in clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Islamabad.

    The clashes broke out Saturday when thousands of protesters who have been camping outside parliament for two weeks demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down, tried to storm his home in the capital, using cranes to remove barricades.

    Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

    The protesters are part of two separate mass rallies organized by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri. They have alleged massive fraud in the May 2013 election that saw Sharif sweep to power with a huge majority.

    The prime minister rejects calls for his ouster as unconstitutional, and his attempts to find a negotiated end to the political crisis have not succeeded.

    International observers have said the vote was largely free and fair.

    The stalemate provoked rally leaders late Saturday to call for the demonstration to move toward the nearby official residence of the prime minister, who was away in his home city of Lahore at the time. Shortly after they began the march and started removing shipping containers used as barricades, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

    The crackdown forced the protesters, some armed with clubs, to retreat, and hospital officials confirmed receiving scores of people, including police officers, with “minor and major wounds.”

    Warnings issued

    A ruling party lawmaker, Marvi Memon, says the government had been repeatedly and sternly warning protesters against crossing “mutually agreed red lines.”

    “When the protesters tried to break the gate of the presidency, when the protesters tried to break the gates of Pakistan Secretariat, then of course action had to be taken and the writ of the state had to be established," she said. "Nowhere in the world is it allowed that protesters are allowed to enter government buildings.”

    The trouble is taking place in an area that houses offices of the prime minister, president and other key government buildings. Foreign diplomatic missions are also located not far from where Saturday night’s clashes took place.

    Calls for nationwide protests

    Khan urged his supporters to extend the protest to the rest of Pakistan. The cricketer-turned-politician wants electoral reforms and new elections, alleging that massive rigging helped Sharif win last year’s parliamentary polls.

    Qadri wants the prime minister out for similar reasons, but is demanding the installation of a so-called national unity government. The cleric also is seeking justice for the murder of 14 followers in a June police crackdown.

    Some critics suspect the powerful army is behind the political unrest because it is unhappy with Sharif for putting the former military chief, Pervez Musharraf, on trial for high treason. Some say the move stems from Musharraf’s ouster of Sharif in the 1999 coup.

    Since taking office about 14 months ago, Prime Minister Sharif has faced criticism for failing to deliver on campaign promises of reviving the national economy and addressing chronic power shortages.

    His appointment of cronies and family members to key government positions is also cited as a key reason for the protests.

    Some information for this report comes from AP, Reuters.

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    Comments
         
    by: sfox from: United Kingdom
    August 30, 2014 10:00 PM
    Voa staff notify editorial staff thtvur writer hs lied blatantly re rigging not taken place showing bias ..y did he not write tht ths week afzal khan 2nd in election commission on recird big news in Pakistan named many ppl involved and int minister ch nisar khan admitted huge bogus votes as 2 y writer is misleading the readers has it as been reported by many news agencies tht $25mill ws handed 2 media 4 pro gov wtire ups voa muat take action. .remember accountability and transparency r key elements in democracies..so pls!

    by: sfox from: United Kingdom
    August 30, 2014 9:52 PM
    "Largely free and fair? Rubbish! interior minister admitted in parliament avg 60k votes per constituency cannot b verified thts 40% votes no2 in election commission ths week saidvit wsvthe biggest pre planned election in history of pak he implicated frm cheif justice an many othr big names VOA pls ask ur writer 2 b fair an not biased also $25mill givn 2 media personal by gov 3 wks ago 4 pro gov

    by: Amar Habib from: London UK
    August 30, 2014 7:32 PM
    Over 600+ Injured mostly women and children who were specifically targeted as they sat in the existing areas which they had occupied for 17 days at least 10 confirmed dead and counting (figures are being controlled but its likely to be much higher), situation is getting worse and spreading to all cities nationwide with brutal use of police force of heavy tear gas , rubber bullets and live rounds fired indiscriminately and at will. Heading toward civil war thanks to the Mafia members of Parliament namely Chaudhry Nisar & Nawaz Sharif. If action is not taken to stop the attack on women, children and the old/infirm who were seated in the targeted areas then it could be a massive NATO human rights situation in which Nawaz Sharif should be charged for genocide notwithsanding his other list of crimes against the state and people.
    In Response

    by: dzaamin from: usa
    August 30, 2014 9:47 PM
    It is so unfortunate that this has to happen.But what is the use lying about the facts.The protesters with sticks,and stones tried to attck the PM house and other sensitive buildings.And IK and Qadri are on record inciting the crowd to just do that.They have been forewarned about the consequences not to cross the red line.But these leaders of the protesters were belligerant and non-compromizing.They have been sitting and disturbing the function of government for over 2 weeks.Nobody bothered them even when they have already gone as far as the parliament house contrary to their agreement.And no deaths have been reported.So at least don't lie about the facts.Off course the Government had also bungled by what they did in Lahore. Maybe NS and SS should have quitted.But on the other hand IK and Qadri should have believed in give and take and not insisted on putting their followers at risk.

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