State TV: Pakistan protest leaders face arrest

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2014 1:15 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court has issued arrest warrants for leaders of an anti-government protest over an attack on the headquarters of the country's state-run television station, the broadcaster reported Wednesday.

In its evening bulletin, Pakistan Television said opposition politician Imran Khan, fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and several leaders face arrest over the Sept. 1 attack on its offices in Islamabad that briefly forced the broadcaster off the air. It did not elaborate and court officials could not be reached Wednesday night to confirm the warrants had been issued.

Reached about the report, police said they would consider arresting the protest leaders once they receive a written court order.

Khan and Qadri's parties have been waging months of protests calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down over allegedly rigging the 2013 elections that brought him to power. Sharif has refused to step down and protesters have been camped out around the country's parliament for weeks.

Qadri has left the country, though Khan, a famous former cricket player, is still in Pakistan and addressing his supporters.

"Today, I received the good news that the warrant for my arrest has been issued," Khan told those rallying outside of parliament late Wednesday. "Our supporters were not involved in the attack on PTV."

Khan said he would not apply for the bail to avoid arrest and promised to hold a large rally in Islamabad on Nov. 30.

Qadri's spokesman Raheeq Abbasi said some of their supporters might have entered the television headquarters to drink water or use the bathroom, but they were not involved in the attack.

Police have said they have evidence that Qadri and Khan's supporters took part in the attack.

Qadri and Khan arrived in Islamabad on Aug. 15 to begin the protest, initially drawing the support of over 70,000 people. There was some violence in the protests that saw three people killed and another 500 — including police officers — wounded. But the protests have waned as the weeks dragged on and the military has largely stayed out of the conflict in this country that's suffered multiple coups since its independence in 1947.