Lahore: Former Pakistani prime minister and Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif defied government attempts to place him under "protective security" on Sunday and said protests against the government would go on.
"You have seen that the entire country has been turned into a police state. They have blocked all roads, they have used all sorts of unlawful tactics," Sharif told gathered at the front step of his Lahore home.
"We will continue marching towards our destination. Sons and daughters, the time has come to take to the streets," said the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader.
A convoy of vehicles left Sharif's home, apparently headed for an anti-government rally where police were battling stone-throwing demonstrators.
Sharif spokesman Asif Kirmani confirmed that the former prime minister was in the convoy. All major routes leading to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, including the Grand Trunk Road, have been barricaded.
Earlier, Sharif's party said he had been ordered detained at his home for three days. Police officer Babur Awan also said a detention order had been issued. Police in riot gear virtually sealed off Sharif's house with roadblocks on all approaches, but government officials denied he had been placed under house arrest.
One said Sharif had been placed under "protective security" for three days after he had refused various options for addressing his supporters under government protection.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said on Saturday security agencies had information "enemies of Pakistan" would launch suicide bomb attacks on the protest. But Sharif said the government was acting illegally in order to stop the protest campaign.
Sharif’s brother Shabaz, who is a former chief minister of Punjab province and a senior leader of PML-Q, has gone underground in Rawalpindi after the government ordered his house arrest.
Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief Imran Khan and Jamaat e Islami chief Qazi Husain Ahmed too have reportedly reached Rawalpindi after evading arrest. Top lawyer and protest organiser Aitzaz Ahsan was detained at his house in Lahore, an aide said.
Police have detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition activists in a crackdown launched on Wednesday to prevent their cross-country "long march" protest that is due to climax with a sit-in outside parliament in Islamabad on Monday.
Snuffing out protests with detentions and roadblocks, the government has also asked troops to be ready, if needed. Police sealed off a bar association in the city of Rawalpindi where lawyers were due to protest and they placed shipping containers on roads to block the way to nearby Islamabad.
If the political crisis gets out of hand, the army could feel compelled to intervene, though most analysts say a military takeover is highly unlikely.
In what appeared to be a step toward reconciliation with the opposition, the government said on Saturday it would seek a review of a Supreme Court ruling last month that barred the Sharifs from elected office. But his party rejected the move.
The Sharifs said Zardari was behind the ruling, which was based on old convictions the Sharifs say were politically motivated. The ruling nullified a by-election victory by Shahbaz and disqualified him from being chief minister of Punjab.
The Sharif party's government was thrown out of power in Punjab and Zardari imposed central rule there for two months. The protesters' main demand is the reinstatement of former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was dismissed in 2007 by then president and army chief Pervez Musharraf.
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