Pakistan Seals Off Capital In Attempt to Stop Protest

Sharif Vows March Will Continue At All Costs

The Pakistani government has erected barriers across all entry points into the capital city of Islamabad as well as its twin city of Rawalpindi, in an attempt to prevent protesters from marching into the capital for their planned sit-in. Vehicles entering the cities are subject to search by police and the long lines are delaying ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

The Long March, a massive protest which started as a lawyers’ rally calling for the reinstatement of deposed judges but has since turned into a rallying point for virtually the entire opposition and even disaffected members of the ruling party, began Thursday. Initial plans had the marchers arriving in Islamabad tomorrow for a sit-in, but the government has promised to stop that by any means at their disposal, up to and including dispatching the military against the opposition.

Most high ranking opposition members have been placed under house arrest at this point, though it appears from reports that few are actually obeying the orders to remain in their homes and are continuing their assorted marches, drawing ever nearer the capital by the hour. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who has been placed under house arrest at least twice in the last week, says the marches must continue at all cost.

Mumtaz Bhutto, the chairman of the Sindh National Front, called the march a people’s referendum against the US-backed Zardari government. President Zardari has condemned the protesters as “undemocratic” and has banned the most popular news station in Pakistan for covering the protests too heavily.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.