Pakistan police fire tear gas, baton-charge supporters near Islamabad

Pakistan police fire tear gas, baton-charge supporters near Islamabad

On Wednesday, Pakistani police fired teargas and baton-charged supporters of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan to stop them from reaching Islamabad, officials and witnesses said.

Political and economic volatility has deepened in the South Asian nation ahead of an announcement from the International Monetary Fund International Monetary Fund IMF later in the day about whether it will resume a $6 billion rescue package.

The political turmoil has compounded the country's political turmoil, with foreign reserves falling to $10.3 billion - less than two months of imports - a fast-crashing rupee and double-digit inflation.

Khan has urged his supporters to march on the capital and stay there until the new government is dissolved and a date for a fresh election is announced.

He was ousted in a confidence vote by a united opposition after he lost his partners in his coalition government last month.

We are getting reports that the police have fired teargas shells to break up the protesters, said Amjad Malik, an interior ministry official.

Live local TV footage showed police fighting with supporters, beating them and in some places breaking their vehicles' windscreens and bundling them into police vans.

Islamabad's entry and exit routes and all important sites, including parliament, government offices and diplomatic missions, have been blocked, officials said. They said entry and exit points were also blocked from and to all major cities in Punjab province and on Grand Trunk GT Road.

Since Tuesday evening, heavy police and military troops have been deployed.

Khan is leading a rally that started in the northwestern city of Peshawar and was due to reach the capital via the GT road.

Khan said no one can stop us from atop a truck on the GT road on his way to Islamabad.

He said that we will remain in Islamabad until the announcement of the dates for dissolution of assemblies elections is given. He also rejected local media reports that a deal had been struck with the government to call off the march after holding a public meeting in the evening.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb denied any such deal.

The government has banned Khan's march, alleging that he is bringing the protesters to Islamabad with evil design. You've handed over a sinking economy to us, and now you're planning sit-ins and protests, said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday at a ceremony in Islamabad. We are trying to energize this weak economy. Khan's party has petitioned the Supreme Court to order the government to lift the restrictions.