Pakistan’s Imran Khan leads Lahore protests

Supporters force closure of public transport facilities to press demand for probe into alleged rigging in 2013 vote.

Monday's Lahore 'shutdown' is the third in a series of protests that Khan announced on November 30 [EPA]

Islamabad, PAKISTAN – Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan’s opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf party, is leading a day of protest in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, with hundreds of his supporters blocking roads and traffic junctions as they demand an inquiry into allegations of election rigging.

Workers of Tehreek-e-Insaf, also known as PTI, gathered to block Lahore’s major arteries by staging sit-ins and burning car tyres, while calling on local businesses to shut down as a mark of protest on Monday morning.

PTI workers were also seen forcing the closure of public transport facilities in certain areas of the city.

Khan alleges that the ruling PML-N party rigged the country’s 2013 general elections, and has called for the formation of an independent judicial commission to investigate those claims.

The PTI won 34 seats in the national assembly in that election, compared with the PML-N’s 189 and the Pakistan People’s Party’s 46 seats.

Nawaz Sharif’s government has struggled to deal with previous such protests, with clashes between PML-N and PTI workers breaking out a similar protest in Faisalabad on December 8.

At least one person was shot and killed during those protests, although it is unclear who was responsible for the death.

On Monday, limited confrontations were seen between PML-N and PTI workers in Lahore, which is one of the PML-N’s political strongholds, according to local television footage.

“Until we get justice, Imran Khan and the PTI will not stop fighting against Nawaz Sharif,” Khan said, addressing supporters at a rally in the Bhatta Chowk area of Lahore.

Tight security was seen across Lahore on Monday, with 15,000 police personnel deployed to ensure the maintenance of order, Haider Ashraf, a police official, told AFP news agency.

The Lahore “shutdown” protest is the third in a series of protests that Khan announced on November 30, as he moved his anti-government protests from a sit-in outside parliament to phased strikes across the country.

Khan’s PTI has threatened to “shut down” the country on December 18 if its demands are not met, although party officials have said that that date is negotiable if ongoing negotiations between PTI and PML-N leaders are successful.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim

Source: Al Jazeera