Clashes break out in Pakistan as Imran Khan leads protesters to Islamabad

 

Asia Correspondent

Clashes have broken out in Pakistan after a protest march led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was reportedly attacked by government supporters.

Reports from the city of Gujranwala said government supporters threw stones and shoes at Mr Khan’s convoy of protesters as their cars and trucks made their way northwards towards the capital, Islamabad, in a bid to try and force out the prime minister.

Initial reports said shots were also fired and hit his vehicle, but later reports said police had denied this.

Mr Khan, who was not hurt, is one of two political leaders leading protesters travelling to Islamabad to try and oust Nawaz Sharif. Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) says the election held in the spring of 2013 and which gave Mr Sharif his third term as the country’s premier was rigged.

Another group of protesters, led by Canada-based cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who runs the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), are also demanding the resignation of Mr Sharif. They say Pakistan needs a revolution and that Mr Sharif represents old-style corruption.

The two-pronged attack represents the most serious challenge yet for Mr Sharif, 15 months after he secured a convincing victory.

Islamabad is already in lockdown, and thousands of police have been deployed in anticipation of the protesters, who could arrive tonight. But the Reuters news agency reported that clashes have already broken out between the demonstrators and supporters of Mr Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

It said Mr Khan’s spokesman had confirmed that the former sports star was not hurt. On social media, Mr Khan wrote: “PML-N workers attacked again but I have asked our workers to remain calm and peaceful.”

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