Demonstrations in one of Pakistan’s largest cities turned deadly on December 8 as one person was killed in clashes between protesters and security forces. The death seems certain to further inflame a mounting confrontation between the government and a former cricket star-turned-politician who has questioned the country’s election results.
Tensions have been escalating for weeks between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which alleges widespread vote rigging in the country’s 2013 elections which brought Sharif to power. Khan has vowed to shut down a number of Pakistani cities as part of his campaign to get a recount of the votes.
Demonstrators clashed with police, many in riot gear, and other protesters. Pakistani television showed images of protesters hurling rocks and pushing against lines of police.
Dr. Tauseef Iqbal at the main hospital in Faisalabad said they had received one body of a man who appeared to have been killed by a bullet wound. Three other wounded people including one policeman had also been brought to the hospital, he said. It was not immediately clear who shot the victim, and police did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Pakistani Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid confirmed the death, and promised that a man who was shown on local television footage firing a gun would be arrested and prosecuted.
Both sides blamed the other for the violence. A police official in Faisalabad said that groups of Khan supporters had been gathering at various spots around the city and clashing with authorities and with supporters of the prime minister. Shireen Mazari, a spokeswoman for Khan’s party, said their supporters had been peaceful and blamed Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, saying they had attacked first.
A spokesman for the Punjab provincial government told Geo TV that the people clashing with Khan’s supporters were not aligned with the ruling party, but Faisalabad is a major stronghold for the Sharif government.
Khan is expected to address a rally in the city later Monday.