500 arrested in deadly clash between Pakistani police, protesters

500 arrested in deadly clash between Pakistani police, protesters

PanARMENIAN.Net - Violence erupted in several places in Pakistan on Saturday, August 9 between police and supporters of an anti-government cleric and at least four people were killed and scores injured, police and witnesses said, according to Reuters.

The violence, which broke out on Friday, is exacerbating tension ahead of a big protest rally by the activist cleric, Tahir ul-Qadri, in the city of Lahore on Sunday.

Qadri is holding the demonstration to protest against deadly clashes between his supporters and police in June but he has also condemned the government as corrupt and called for the overthrow of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

A separate protest, led by opposition politician Imran Khan, is planned for the capital on Thursday to protest alleged election irregularities. Khan has also called for the government to go.

The planned demonstrations have unnerved Sharif's fledgling civilian government. The nuclear-armed nation of 180 million has a history of coups and street protests.

Some members of the ruling party fear the protesters may be getting support from elements in the powerful military, which has had a series of disagreements with the government. The military denies meddling in politics.

Security was tight in Lahore on Saturday with police manning checkpoints throughout the eastern city, the home town of both Qadri and the prime minister, and the capital of Punjab, the country's richest province.

Around 500 Qadri supporters had been arrested, said Nabeela Ghazanfar, the provincial police spokeswoman, and more than 100 police injured.

Rahiq Abbassi, a spokesman for Qadri, said more than a hundred of their supporters were also injured and denied attacking the police.

In several parts of Punjab police tried to block Qadri's supporters from travelling to Lahore, sparking confrontations and violence, police and witnesses said.

Two men and a woman were killed in the district of Gujranwala, about 220 km (140 miles) southeast of Islamabad, said deputy inspector general of police Saad Bahrwana.

Shopkeeper Muhammad Hussain said those clashes began when police tried to stop Qadri supporters from travelling to Lahore.

Another man was shot dead during clashes between Qadri supporters and police in the town of Bhakkar, 320 km (200 miles) southwest of the capital, said a doctor.

Police said a police station had been burnt down and dozens of weapons seized in the central town of Qaidabad.

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