Pakistani police, opposition supporters clash in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Wielding batons and firing rounds of tear gas, Pakistani riot police on Friday clashed with stone-throwing supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who rallied in the capital in defiance of a government-imposed ban on demonstrations.
The clashes erupted as supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf opposition party tried to make their way toward his residence in Islamabad for a rally he had called for the previous evening.
The violence prompted Khan to announce he will go ahead with a planned “million men” march on Wednesday in Islamabad to force the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.
Khan said he was not afraid of arrest.
“Even if you send me to jail, I will come back to lead rallies against you,” he said, addressing Sharif. According to Khan, police were not allowing him to leave his residence.
There also were skirmishes between Khan’s supporters and police in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province. Police detained dozens of Khan party activists across Pakistan.
In Rawalpindi, local Aaj TV said a newborn baby boy suffocated from tear gas during clashes between police and Khan’s supporters. The boy’s father, railway worker Mohammad Tariq, said their neighborhood got caught up in the clashes and the tear gas made his three-day-old baby choke.
“We rushed to the Benazir hospital but roads were blocked with shipping containers and it took us 90 minutes” to get to the hospital, where the doctor pronounced the baby dead, Tariq told the station.
Public pressure has mounted on Sharif to step down since his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Sharif, serving his third term as prime minister, has refused to quit but says he’ll face an investigation to prove he and his family were not involved in corruption.
The Supreme Court has reportedly settled on a panel of judges who will hear the case on Sharif’s family offshore accounts next week. Khan’s party is one of the five petitioners requested the court look into the scandal. The top court has asked Sharif to issue a response to the allegations against him.
Khan in 2014 held months-long rallies in Islamabad to force Sharif to quit and claimed the premier had rigged the 2013 elections. The former cricket star suspended his party’s protests after a Taliban attack in December that year in Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly school children.