Police on Saturday cracked down on an opposition sit-in outside Punjab's provincial assembly, held to protest the alleged rigging of last week's by-elections, detaining dozens of leaders of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, before later releasing them.
"The ruling party has exposed its real face; it cannot even bear peaceful protests," PTI Punjab President Ijaz Chaudry told Anadolu Agency after his release.
"We will not be cowed by these coercive attempts and will continue our protest because the provincial government has changed the election results after its defeat," he said.
PTI legislators were protesting the alleged rigging of a provincial assembly seat in Punjab's provincial capital Lahore in by-elections held Thursday.
The PTI's candidate lost to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML)'s candidate by a 600-vote margin.
The PTI cried foul, refusing to accept the result and accusing the PML of widespread vote rigging.
Police detained Chaudry, Mian Mahmud-ur-Rasheed, the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, and several PTI lawmakers who flashed victory signs as police bundled them into vehicles and took them away.
A few hours later, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, a brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ordered their release as a "goodwill gesture."
Initial results of Thursday's by-elections showed the ruling PML maintaining its lead in most constituencies, with the PTI coming in second.
The PTI has the second largest share of seats in the National Assembly.
The PML, which controls the federal and Punjab governments, rejected the charges of electoral fraud.
"The PTI has not lost this [Punjab assembly] seat alone, but it has also lost its two National Assembly seats, one of them from Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province, where its own provincial government could not save it from defeat," Federal Information Minister Pervez Rasheed told reporters.
The PTI had emerged as the majority party in the northwestern KP province, which borders Afghanistan, and formed the provincial government with coalition partners.
But in Thursday's by-elections, the party lost two of its National Assembly seats, which had been won by party chairman Khan in May general elections – one from Peshawar and a second from Mianwali, Khan's home town.
According to election rules in Pakistan, a candidate can simultaneously contest as many seats as he/she wants in general elections for both national and provincial assemblies.
However, the candidate can retain only one seat and by-elections must be held for vacated seats.
Minister Rasheed denied claims that police had arrested peaceful protesters.
"The government fully supports and facilitates peaceful protests in accordance with the constitution," he said. "But they [protesters] had blocked the main city road, which was unacceptable."
Unfazed, the PTI has announced more demonstrations province-wide to protest the alleged vote rigging.Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ağustos 2013, 15:44