ISLAMABAD: Police clashed with opposition party supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday, arresting dozens ahead of a planned protest by PTI Chairman Imran Khan aimed at unseating the government.
Police charged stone-throwing protesters with batons and fired tear gas at the supporters, who had come out onto the streets of Islamabad’s twin-city to demonstrate against arrests made the previous night after authorities banned all public gatherings in the capital for two months.
Municipal workers meanwhile used shipping containers to block major roads leading from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, where Khan has vowed to lead a demonstration on November 2 to demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over revelations made in the Panama Papers that his family have offshore bank accounts.
A heavy contingent of police meanwhile surrounded Khan’s house in Banni Gala, a leafy suburb of Islamabad, preventing him from leaving — though he has not been formally arrested.
Dozens of Khan’s supporters also gathered around the house, chanting anti-government slogans calling for Sharif to resign.
Khan later made a brief appearance in front of the media vowing he would not be deterred and would lead his protest as planned.
“As long as I am alive I won’t sit idle until I hold Nawaz Sharif accountable. Throw me in prison, when I’m out I will start again,” he said.
“Try stopping me if you can, you will be unable to stop a flood of people on November 2.”
Moments after Khan’s appearance before the media, his supporters clashed with police, chanting slogans and pelting stones at police vehicles.
Protesters damaged a number of vehicles, breaking windscreens and chanting “Go Nawaz Go”.
The police retaliated with tear gas, dispersing the demonstrators.
Dozens of protesters belonging to Khan’s party staged a sit-in in Karachi demanding release of the detained opposition activists.
Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children’s offshore bank accounts, revealed in the Panama Papers leak.
The planned protest plan comes at a sensitive time for Sharif, with Pakistan’s Supreme Court due to start hearing a case about the Panama Papers revelations on November 1.