LAHORE, Pakistan – Hundreds of supporters of Pakistan’s opposition leader, Shahbaz Sharif, clashed with police in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, leaving dozens of protesters hurt, officials said.
The violence erupted when riot police used batons to prevent Sharif’s supporters from reaching an anti-graft tribunal where he appeared before the court for a pre-trial hearing over alleged links to a multi-million dollars housing scam.
Police also detained several activists, angering the country’s opposition parties, which in turn urged Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to immediately free those detained.
According to Maryam Aurangzeb, a spokeswoman for Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party, police beat the party’s supporters without any provocation. “We were peaceful and police started swinging batons and beating our supporters without any provocation,” she said.
But police insisted they prevented demonstrators from trying to storm the court.
Sharif, the opposition leader in parliament, has been held in custody by the National Accountability Bureau since October. He is accused of influencing authorities to award contracts for a housing program to a company with which he had political connections.
Also Thursday in Lahore, hundreds of farmers rallied to demand a decrease in the prices of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, and to pressure authorities so they could get higher prices for sugarcane and other produce.
The farmers’ protest, which began Wednesday, swelled Thursday with more joining the rally. Farmers say authorities in recent months increased prices of pesticides and fertilizers and that sugar mills are now offering them lower prices to purchase their sugarcane.
The farmers are threatening to burn their crops in protest if their demands are not accepted.
In other developments, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati resigned Thursday after a judicial probe found he had abused his office to get members of a poor family arrested.
Swati has been criticized by human rights activists since last month, when his guards clashed with the family, living near his farmhouse. AP