ISLAMABAD, Nov 25: Pakistani police used tear gas and water cannon, and fought running battles with stone-throwing activists, as they moved to clear a sit-in by religious hardliners who have blocked the main routes into the capital of Islamabad for more than two weeks.
The protests have spread to other main cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
The clashes began today morning when police launched an operation involving some 4,000 officers to disperse around 1,000 activists from Tehreek-e-Labaik, a new hardline political party, and break up their camp, police official Saood Tirmizi told Reuters.
Dozens of protesters were arrested, Tirmizi said, and hospitals reported dozens of people were being treated for injuries.
The mass protest, plus the recent gains of two new hardline parties in Pakistan, demonstrated the religious right’s gathering strength ahead of what are expected to be tumultuous elections next year.
Television footage showed a police vehicle on fire, heavy curtains of smoke and fires burning in the streets as officers in heavy riot gear advanced. Protesters, some wearing gas masks, fought back in scattered battles across empty highways and surrounding neighbourhoods.