A court in Pakistan has ordered 100 opposition activists to be sent to jail for staging illegal protests and committing several other violations, causing chaos and anger among activists.
A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside a court in Islamabad on Saturday to protest against the court’s decision.
Recent protests have been headed by Imran Khan, a former cricket star and Tahir ul-Qadri who is a firebrand cleric.
Opposition activists have been demonstrating for the past several weeks demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, a demand Sharif has repeatedly rejected.
Activists and protest leaders accuse Sharif of influencing last year’s elections which brought him back to power in a landslide and say they will not back down until he resigns.
“The end of the incumbent government’s rule is near,” Qadri told domestic media on Saturday.
Several attempts for negotiations between the two sides have ended in failure to come to an agreement, highlighting nervousness among the two.
“We are suspending talks with the government over these arrests,” party leader Jehanghir Tareen told a news conference.
Several protest camps crowded the prime minister’s house, ministries and embassies areas also known as the Red Zone.
“Now there is no room for further talks, after what the government has done to us,” Khan told the cheering crowd.
The government has warned that it holds the right to crack down and disperse protesters, in order to protect government buildings and secure the country. Regardless, protesters continued their demonstrations amid a series of violent confrontations.
For Prime Minister Sharif , protests come at a critical time as his government has been criticised lately for not doing enough in response to the deadly floods around the country which have killed 280 people and affected two million.
The army, which has been around for more than half of the country’s history, remains deadlocked but urged both sides to find a political solution.
Despite that, some accusations by ruling party officials stated that the military itself was instigating the unrest as a channel to exert supremacy over the prime minister’s rule.
The army denied allegations of meddling in civilian affairs, claiming it is neutral.