March 15, 2009
Pakistan Arrests Opposition Leader to Block Protests
By James Rupert and Farhan Sharif
Pakistani police detained former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, blockaded highways and cities and put army troops on alert to break up a planned protest tomorrow in Islamabad.
Police surrounded Sharif’s home in Lahore, put him under house arrest for three days and detained scores of other leaders of his Pakistan Muslim League, said party spokesman Pervez Rashid. The government blockaded central Lahore and Islamabad, tightening its crackdown on nationwide protests to demand the restoration of dismissed judges who are supported by Sharif.
President Asif Ali Zardari “may prevent us from protesting in Islamabad tomorrow, but we will simply re-organize and renew our protest in a few days,” said Rai Muhammad Salim Raza Kharal, one of a few Muslim League activists who managed to reach the main rally venue in Lahore. Zardari “will face a long period of protest now,” he said, shortly before police fired tear gas to disperse rock-throwing demonstrators nearby.
Zardari’s use of force to quell protest and growing dissent in his Pakistan Peoples Party, are “deepening his credibility deficit and leaving his government weaker,” said Syed Khwaja Alqama, a political-science professor in the Punjab province city of Multan, the site of one of yesterday’s biggest demonstrations.