Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz have been placed under house arrest today as the national government attempts to consolidate its authority in the Punjab Province against growing popular unrest.
The move was just the first step in a massive crackdown on the province which included a ban on public meetings and the deployment of troops across several districts to silence the opposition. Lists were distributed to police stations with the names of top leaders in the opposition parties and lawyers involved in the long-running campaign aimed at restoring the judges ousted by then-President Pervez Musharraf. Political activists are reportedly remaining off the streets for fears of being captured by government forces.
Using a Supreme Court ruling last month as a catalyst, the national government seized direct control over the Punjab, which had previously been ruled by Sharif’s PML-N Party. The popular outcry has grown in intensity since the decision, leading the PPP-led government to threaten to imprison the Sharifs for sedition and led Nawaz Sharif to advise his supporters to “get ready to make sacrifices for a revolution.”
Sharif remained defiant today, saying “these house-arrests will not be able to foil lawyers’ long march and sit-in which is being struggled in wake of restoration of judiciary and supremacy of law in Pakistan.” Interior Secretary Kamal Shah has declared that the military has been called in to prevent the planned sit-in protest in Islamabad.