Tension soars as opposition leader leading march to Islamabad says gun shots were fired at his vehicle.
Tension soared in the Pakistani city of Gujranwala after Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan said gun shots were fired at his vehicle as he led an anti-government march to the capital.
Khan was not injured in Friday’s attack but his vehicle was hit.
The convoy, which was not bullet-proof, was pelted by a stone-throwing mob, apparently consisting of workers loyal to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party workers, Khan told Tribune. He said police watched without intervening.
Pervez Rashid, the federal information minister and a ruling PML-N party leader, said it was an unfortunate incident.
“We know that incidents like these lead to conflict between political leaders, and it causes much harm. We are going to try our hardest through our [parliamentarians] and local administration to convince [our local party workers] to approach the situation with patience, even if they are angered,” he told a local television news channel.
Television pictures showed local people tearing up posters featuring Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), and clashing with his supporters.
Concern over stability
Khan and religious leader Tahir ul-Qadri are both leading separate protest marches from Lahore to Islamabad, where they intend to hold a sit-in until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.
“It is unclear at this point if there will be a combined sit-in when they arrive in Islamabad. Both sides are remaining firm on their demand that the government resign, although the PTI and PAT [Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek movement] differ on what happens after that point,” Tribune International’s Syed Nabeel, reporting from the capital, said.
Security was tight in the capital and authorities had blocked several main roads with shipping containers and barbed wire in an effort to thwart the marches.
Riot police were out in force but hundreds of protesters began to gather, beating drums, singing and dancing as they prepared to welcome their comrades approaching the city.
“We have come to save our country because of the call of our leader, Imran Khan,” said 36-year-old Ajaz Khan in central Islamabad. He was speaking before the shots were fired at Khan.
“We will not leave from here until our leader tells us to go.”
The protests have raised questions over stability at a time when the nation of 180 million is fighting an offensive against Pakistani Taliban fighters and the influence of anti-Western and sectarian groups is growing.
In the latest violence, Pakistani police said 10 armed men were killed when security forces thwarted an assault on two air bases near the southwestern city Quetta.
Fighters armed with grenades and automatic weapons attacked the Samungli and Khalid bases on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, late on Thursday night.