Dozens arrested as Pakistan police, protesters clash as tensions mount over Panama Papers revelations on Sharif family

Activists of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on Oct 28, 2016.
Activists of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on Oct 28, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistani police clashed with opposition party supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday (Oct 28), arresting dozens ahead of a planned protest by cricketer-turned-politician 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 on 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 Mr 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.

The exact number of arrests could not be confirmed, but a spokesman for Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party said 43 workers arrested on Thursday (Oct 27) night were still in detention while others had been released.

 

A heavy contingent of police, meanwhile, surrounded Mr Khan's house in Banni Gala, a leafy suburb of Islamabad, preventing him from leaving - though he has not been formally arrested.

Dozens of Mr Khan's supporters also gathered around the house, chanting anti-government slogans calling for Mr Sharif to resign.

Mr 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."

Mr Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children's offshore bank accounts, revealed in the Panama Papers leak.

Mr Khan led a previous mass protest in the summer of 2014 that lasted four months, allying himself with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to back a sit-in in front of Parliament calling for the government to resign over election-rigging allegations.

The new protest plan comes at a sensitive time for Mr Sharif, with Pakistan's Supreme Court due to start hearing a case about the Panama Papers revelations on November 1.