The Long March began today in the cities of Karachi and Quetta, and already the government is out in force to disrupt the protest. Police attacked lawyers and political activists at Toll Plaza in Karachi, arresting several high ranking leaders of opposition parties and arresting the President of the High Court Bar of Sindh Province, as well as the former President of the nation Supreme Court Bar Association. Shops have been closed in some parts of the city as clashes between police and protesters turned violent.
Karachi Police spokesman Wasim Ahmad Siddiqui defended the action against the protesters, saying it was their responsibility to enforce the emergency rule declared by the government (which banned public gatherings across much of the nation), and claiming that the arrests of these top officials “have been undertaken in view of a threat of terrorist activity.”
Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif issued a statement condemning the arrests as “shameful” and demanded that the government release the detainees. The disquiet over the crackdown is also threatening the internal cohesion of the ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), as some senior leaders are expressing support for the march.
The Long March, which started as a lawyers’ protest to restore judges deposed by then-President Pervez Musharraf, has snowballed into an all-purpose protest against the growing crackdown by the Zardari government on political opposition and the imposition of emergency rule across much of the nation. Marchers began the long walk to Islamabad today, and the rally will culminate in a sit-in along Constitution Avenue, though the government has vowed to stop this “at all costs.”
An up-to-date list of all articles on the events leading up to the Long March is available here.