- Pakistan police clashed with PTI supporters and tried to stop them from entering Islamabad
- Tear gas was fired and several locals were injured in shelling
- Shehbaz Sharif called in the army to protect the Red Zone
Pakistan witnessed major chaos in the wee hours of Thursday as former Prime Minister Imran Khan reached Islamabad to demand fresh elections. Pakistan police fired tear gas and clashed with supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after authorities tried to block the Azadi March from moving toward D-Chowk in the federal capital. The development comes after Khan had warned his supporters would not vacate the area until a date for fresh polls was announced by the Shehbaz Sharif government.
Khan, who was ousted from power by a no-trust vote, has asked "all Pakistanis" to take to the streets in their respective cities and appealed to women and children to come out of their homes for "real independence".
"It's 2.30 am at the D-Chowk and the shelling is continuing. God know how many more rounds of shelling will they use before the arrival of Imran Khan," said Senator Aon Abbas Buppi.
In an opinion piece titled "Imran Khan's march to chaos", a Pakistan journalist said the country seems to be heading towards political confrontation following the government's decision to ban the PTI march on Islamabad.
"Crackdowns on the opposition leaders and the sealing of the capital have created a highly volatile situation. The government already seems to be panicking," author Zahid Hussain wrote in the Dawn newspaper.
Shehbaz Sharif calls in Pakistan army
Failing to control the growing unrest due to the protest march launched by Imran Khan, the Shehbaz Sharif government has been forced to call in the army to protect the Red Zone as Khan entered Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday.
The government order said that the decision was taken for the protection of important government buildings including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Parliament House, Presidency, Prime Minister's Office and others.
Rights groups expressed deep concern at the highhandedness of law enforcement agencies in disrupting the PTI's march to Islamabad.
"We believe that all citizens and all political parties have every right to assemble and protest peacefully," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) tweeted.
"The state's overreaction has triggered, more than it has prevented, violence on the streets. The onus is on the government and opposition leaders to adopt a mature, democratic response and immediately begin a dialogue to end the impasse," the group added.
(With inputs from ANI)