450 injured in Pakistan clashes

Islamabad (IANS): At least eight protesters were reported killed and 450 people injured in clashes with police in Pakistan as anti-government protests continue in the capital city of Islamabad.

The clashes broke out Saturday night when supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) started marching towards the Prime Minister’s House to stage a sit-in there, Xinhua reported.

PAT leader Tahir-ul-Qadri claimed that his party’s seven workers were killed by the police and many others were brutally injured by steel and rubber bullets.

PTI’s chief Imran Khan said one of his workers was killed and scores of others injured in clashes.

However, Defence Minister Khawja Asif rejected the claims by the opposition leaders, saying no one was killed in the clashes.

Officials, however, confirmed that 240 injured people, including six children and 40 women, were shifted to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences while 210 others – among them five children and 25 women – were shifted to Poly Clinic Hospital.

The injured people also included over 40 policemen and six journalists.

The protest leaders said that clashes broke out when police burst teargas shells to disperse the protesters marching in the capital’s high security area Red Zone for staging a sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s House.

However, the country’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said the protesters were carrying clubs in their hands and were aiming to enter sensitive government buildings.

During the clashes, some protesters also entered the Parliament House by breaking its outer barrier.

The protesters later retreated on the orders of the Pakistan Army personnel who were deployed in the area.

Police have arrested over 500 workers and shifted them to undisclosed locations.

The PTI leadership has announced a countrywide protest Sunday against the incident, while some other parties have supported the call.

Another opposition party, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), demanded the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and also announced it would observe one-day mourning in Karachi.

Following the clashes, party workers of the PTI and PAT started protests and blocked main roads in other major cities, including Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Karachi.

Thousands of supporters of the two parties started their two separate long marches from the eastern city of Lahore Aug 14 and reached Islamabad Aug 15.

The protesters later marched towards Red Zone Aug 19 and staged a sit-in in front of the Parliament House.

Both parties have held rounds of talks with the government for their demands. The talks, however, remained deadlocked.

PTI chief Imran Khan, whose party has 34 seats in the lower house, alleged Sharif rigged in the 2013 general elections.

He has been demanding a probe into the rigging by a panel of the country’s apex court followed by free and fair re-elections.

The PAT workers have been protesting for their 10-point agenda, including the resignation of the prime minister and the registration of a murder case against 21 people, including the prime minister, over police firing at protesters on June 17 in Lahore.