The New York Times reports on the clash that erupted today when members of the lawyers' movement and supporters of Nawaz Sharif, "the opposition leader" tried to stage a protest in Lahore.
[There is only one opposition leader in a country of _____ million????]
According to the Times, the police fired tear gas at the protestors, even bringing in armored vehicles to avoid being hit by the stones the protestors were hurling back at them. When the protestors started burning tires, the police chased them with batons.
This type of government crackdown on protests, according to the Times report, was unheard of during the eight-year military rule of President Musharraf. In fact, it was so weird that Sajjad Bhutta, Lahore's chief magistrate, told the Times that he refused to carry out what he perceived was an illegal police crackdown.
As the Times noted:
The current battle between Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister, began on Feb. 25 when the president imposed executive rule on the Punjab Legislature, the stronghold of Mr. Sharif’s party.
Hours earlier, the Supreme Court had issued its ruling disqualifying the Sharifs from holding office. To consolidate their opposition to Mr. Zardari, the brothers joined forces with the lawyers’ movement, which had called for a national protest and sit-in in Islamabad on March 16.
But as Mr. Zardari, the widower of Ms. Bhutto, stood firm, senior members of his party began to desert him. The minister of information, Sherry Rehman, resigned late Friday night after a prominent television news channel, Geo, was banned by the government in some parts of the country. Another senior official, Raza Rabbani, who was the party leader in the Senate, resigned from the cabinet after Mr. Zardari bypassed Mr. Rabbani and chose a more junior lawmaker, Farooq H. Naik, for the most senior post in the Senate chamber.