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Rediff.com  » News » Freedom or death: Imran Khan's war cry as anti-govt protests intensify

Freedom or death: Imran Khan's war cry as anti-govt protests intensify

Last updated on: August 31, 2014 16:54 IST

Riot police run after a supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek, outside the parliament house as the supporters marched towards the prime minister's house in Islamabad on Saturday. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Mounting pressure on embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, opposition leader Imran Khan on Sunday vowed to fight till death and asked Pakistanis to rebel against the illegal regime after two persons were killed and about 450 others injured in police crackdown on protesters.

"I request all the nation, civil servants, bureaucrats and police to rebel against this illegal government," Khan told his supporters. The cricketer-turned-politician asked officials to ignore all illegal orders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party-led government.

Riot police clash with supporters Qadri during the Revolution March in Islamabad on Sunday. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Hundreds of protesters entered the lawn of parliament but they were pushed back at the main entrance of the building where army was deployed.

About 450 injured were brought to Polyclinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the two premier state-run hospitals, a government official said. A police official said over 70 policemen and five Frontier Constabulary personnel were injured in clashes with protesters armed with sticks, catapults and stones.

Dr Ayesha Isani of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital told reporters that a man brought to the hospital late on Saturday last night had passed away. She confirmed that earlier a man was brought dead to the hospital, who had drowned by falling into a trench.

So far the protesters failed to break into the security cordon and reach the PM House.

Khan was present in his container mounted on a truck and frequently addressed his supporters. He said he will register cases against the Sharif brothers and interior minister Nisar Ali Khan for ordering crackdown on protesters.

Imran Khan addresses supporters during the Revolution March in Islamabad. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

"I am prepared to die fighting for the freedom for my people," he said, adding, "allah ya azaadi ya maut (either freedom or death)".

His comments came hours after police baton-charged hundreds of anti-government protesters led by Khan and Canada-based fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri who marched towards Sharif's residence in the high-security Red Zone in Islamabad demanding his resignation.

The clashes started after Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chairman Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehrik chief Qadri ordered their supporters to shift the protest venue in the front of the residence of Sharif to force him to quit.

Police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters outside the prime minister's official residence and the adjacent parliament building.

A supporter of Qadri prays while wearing a gas mask for protection from tear gas released by the police to disperse the supporters as they marched to the prime minister's house, in Islamabad. Photograph:Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

Hundreds of protesters entered the lawn of parliament but they were pushed back at the main entrance of the building where the army was deployed.

About 450 injured were brought to Polyclinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the two premier state-run hospitals, a government official said. A police official said over 70 policemen and five Frontier Constabulary personnel were injured in clashes with protesters armed with sticks, catapults and stones.

Qadri' PAT in is twitter account claimed that seven of its supporters were killed in police action, but figures could not be verified officially.

Khan said on Saturday that the government could use force against protesters as they were not prepared for it.

"We are ready now. The government cannot function," he said, adding, "We will remain here until we take resignations from Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif," he said.

He said his party would file a FIR against Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan for killing people. Khan defended the protests saying that they were marching peacefully. "Nawaz Sharif is a fascist and does not believe in democracy...In democracy, peaceful protest is our right," he said, adding, "Those who say we shouldn't have done this do not know the difference between freedom and slavery.”

So far the protesters failed to break into the security cordon and reach the Prime Minister House.

PTI leader Pervaiz Khattak said that they will not stop until Sharif resigns, as the protest entered 18th day.

Tahir ul-Qadri displays a copy of the constitution of Pakistan to supporters while addressing them outside the parliament house in Islamabad. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Qadri also emerged from his container and addressed the supporters in husky voice which he said was due to effect tear gas. "I salute my sons and daughters who won," he said without explaining. He promised to make another speech later on and vowed to continue to struggle till final victory of "revolution".

Fearing backlash from protesters, roads leading to Prime Minister Sharif's Lahore residence, where he is currently residing, have been blocked and heavy contingent of police deployed. His brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is also living there.

Sharif had left the prime minister house in Islamabad for his Lahore residence, which is sprawling on acres of land, on Friday along with his personal staff.

"Sharif had vacated the prime minister house fearing it might come under siege from the protesters," a source in the ruling PML-N told PTI.

"Sharif will not move to the prime minister house in Islamabad till the police manage to clear the area from Khan's Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf and Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tahreek," the source said, adding Sharif and his family members would not travel by road in the present circumstances.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that the protesters had committed a crime by attacking parliament which is a "symbol of democracy".

Intermittent clashes are continuing and fresh contingents of police were sent this morning as reinforcement.

The situation was very tense in the capital as a number of demonstrators refused to budge from the protest site.  Both the leaders are agitating since August 14 against alleged rigging during the last year general elections.

A late night government announcement categorically ruled out Sharif's resignation and there is no threat to his life.

Meanwhile, the protesters clashed with police at famous Liberty Chowk and the Mall Road in Lahore. Half a dozen protesters suffered injuries and were shifted to hospital where their condition is stated to be out of danger.

A group of Khan's supporters gathered outside the residence of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in Sialkot, some 150 km from Lahore, and pelted stones at it. Police, however, managed to disperse them.

In Multan, some 350 km from Lahore, the Tehrik-e-Insaf activists blocked the motorway road for several hours. The police used baton to disperse them.

Opposition leaders have criticised both Khan and Qadri for inciting violence.

 

Sajjad Hussain in Islamabad