Islamabad [Pakistan], May 26 (ANI): Police in Pakistan fired tear gas and clashed with supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the wee hours of Thursday as former Prime Minister and party chief Imran Khan started reaching Islamabad to demand fresh elections.
Tension gripped the country as police and PTI workers clashed after authorities tried to block them from moving toward D-Chowk in the federal capital after Imran Khan warned his supporters would not vacate the area until a date for fresh polls was announced by the Shehbaz Sharif government.
Former Pakistan PM, 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.
"Tremendous effort by the people of Pakistan to save their lives!! What an inning are they playing MashaAllah, Allah ap logo ko salamat rkhey," PTI's official account tweeted as the workers belonging to Imran Khan's party clashed with police in Islamabad.
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.
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 former Pakistan Prime Minister and PTI chief entered Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday.
"Pursuant to the law and order situation in the Islamabad Capital Territory, the Federal Government, in the exercise of powers conferred under Article 245 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, authorises deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan Army," Pakistan's Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said in a government order posted on Twitter.
The Pakistan government deployed the army in Red Zone to "protect important government buildings" after Imran Khan entered the federal capital amid rising tensions in the country.
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. (ANI)