Arrests delay end of month-long protest in Pakistan


Talks to end a month-long sit-in by anti-government protesters in Pakistan are deadlocked after authorities arrested dozens of demonstrators.


Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have gathered thousands of supporters in Islamabad since August 14 calling on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over what they claim was rigging of the 2013 election.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that the government had detained several people for storming the state-run Pakistan Television building earlier this month.

“Around 20 people have been identified among those who attacked the PTV building. We have arrested seven of them,” the interior minister told a news conference.

The arrests prompted Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party to cancel talks aimed at ending the crisis.

Addressing a crowd in front of parliament to mark their 30th day of protest, Khan said talks had to end following the arrest of his workers.

Earlier in the day PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen told reporters the party had suspended talks.

“We have suspended all negotiations. I have also informed the opposition parties’ leaders, who were negotiating,” Tareen told reporters.

“We will not end our protest until Nawaz Sharif resigns.”

Hundreds of protesters briefly seized the state broadcaster on September 1, intensifying a political crisis that had gripped the nation.

Meanwhile, thousands have gathered for the last month inside Islamabad’s government zone, sparking frequent clashes with police.

“We arrested some people while they were leaving the protest site,” Interior Minister Khan said of the latest arrests.

Radio Pakistan reported that an Islamabad court remanded over 100 people for attacking state institutions and violating a ban on public gatherings.

Among those detained was a popular PTI DJ who attracted large crowds at the regular rallies.

Tahir-ul-Qadri, chief of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party, also announced he had suspended negotiations, alleging 12 of his personal guards were also arrested.

Several rounds of talks have been held to find a solution to the crisis.

Although Khan and Qadri claim the 2013 elections were rigged, local and foreign observers said the polls were credible.

Analysts say the army has co-ordinated the protests as a means of reasserting its dominance over civilian authorities.

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