Home Latest News Two Dead as PTI, PAT Protests Continue

Two Dead as PTI, PAT Protests Continue

by AFP
Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Another 400 injured in clashes that have spread to various cities of Pakistan.

Two people were killed and over 400 wounded in clashes between police and protesters in Islamabad, hospital officials said on Sunday, as a fortnight-long political impasse took a violent turn.

The violence, which began late Saturday and continued early Sunday, erupted after around 25,000 people marched from Parliament to the Prime Minister’s House, where some attempted to remove barricades around it with cranes, an AFP reporter at the scene said. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said that police exercised restraint but the protesters were armed with axes, wire cutters and hammers. “They had a crane and drove it until the entrance of the presidency. We are using only tear gas and firing rubber bullets where needed,” Khattak said. AFP’s correspondent at the scene said protesters were carrying batons, iron rods and slingshots.

Railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said protesters tried to uproot the entry gate of the P.M. House.

The protesters, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, had been camped outside Parliament House since Aug. 15 demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quit amid allegations of vote rigging. The crisis took on a new dimension earlier in the week after the government asked the Army to mediate, raising fears the military would use the situation to enact a “soft coup” and increase its dominance over civilian authorities.

“There are 1,600 to 2,000 trained terrorists. They have 200 women who are trained in the use of firearms and they have come with the intention of occupying state buildings,” defense minister Khawaja Asif told AFP as the fighting broke out late Saturday. “These are buildings that are symbols of the state,” he said. “Their attempts are being resisted. And we will resist these with full force.”

The injured were rushed to Islamabad’s two main hospitals, and the number of casualties is expected to rise as clashes continue.

Wasim Khawaja, spokesman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Islamabad, said the hospital received body of one person, which was found in a rivulet at the protest site. “He died of heart attack,” Khwaja said, adding 212 injured had been taken there, while the Poly Clinic hospital said it received 210 wounded. There were more than 39 policemen, 36 woman and five children among the injured, Khawaja said. Khawaja also said most of the victims had been injured by rubber bullets. Another person died on Sunday morning due to abdominal injuries, according to a PIM S spokeswoman, who said he had been injured by a “sharp object.”

At the Poly Clinic hospital, spokesman Khurram Ghuman said: “There are 25 women and 40 policemen among them and most have been affected by tear gas, stones and rubber bullets, but they all are in stable condition.” A 15-month-old toddler was also brought in and Ghuman appealed for the parents to take the baby, who was safe and sound.

Private TV channels broadcast footage of protesters breaking the outer iron grill of Parliament House and entering the outer lawn but without entering the main building.

Demonstrations also erupted in Lahore and Karachi. Protesters with batons have burned tyres and trees, and blocked roads in Lahore, an AFP reporter said. Police used batons and fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators there. The protests remained peaceful in Karachi, however.

Khan and Qadri claim the 2013 elections that saw Sharif sweep to power were massively rigged. Local and foreign observers said the polls were credible, and analysts believe the protests have been coordinated by the Army as a means of re-asserting its dominance over civilian authorities.

Paramilitary troops and soldiers standing guard to protect the P.M.’s House as well as other sensitive installations have not yet been called into action, despite the violence Sunday.

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