News Update :

Police fire tear gas at Pakistan cleric supporters

Saturday, January 19, 2013

PAKISTAN: Police fired tear gas during isolated clashes at a protest rally in Islamabad Tuesday, where thousands led by an influential cleric demanded a peaceful “revolution” and the dissolution of parliament.

Men, women and children answered a call by Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri to converge on parliament after camping out in the capital overnight following a 38-hour march from the eastern city of Lahore.

Qadri gave the government, which in March will become the first civilian administration in Pakistan history to complete a full term in office, until 11:00 am (0600 GMT) to dissolve Parliament or face a “democratic revolution”.

The deadline passed without incident, though sporadic violence erupted several hours earlier. Police fired tear gas after protesters brandishing sticks threw stones at police around 500 metres (yards) from parliament, an AFP reporter said. Demonstrators smashed vehicle windows as they continued their march and reached the edge of the heavily fortified “Red Zone”, which houses parliament and the diplomatic enclave -- home to Western embassies that closed on Tuesday. Gunshots were heard and at least one policeman was seen shooting in the air. Both protesters and the authorities accused each other of opening fire. Eight police were hurt in the clashes, Doctor Tanvir Afsar Malik, a spokesman for the Federal Government Services Hospital, told AFP. Organisers of the rally accused police of opening fire, of attempting to arrest the cleric and of trying to provoke them into violence.

“They opened fire on Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri's car and tried to smash the windows,” said Qadri spokesman Shahid Mursaleen.

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