Pakistani opposition chief Nawaz Sharif says a protest convoy he is
leading toward the capital Islamabad is a "prelude to a revolution."
Mr. Sharif spoke Sunday before his convoy left his home city of Lahore
bound for the capital Islamabad, 260 kilometers away. Thousands of his
supporters marched behind him.
The activists plan to rally outside Pakistan's parliament Monday to
pressure the government into reinstating Supreme Court judges deposed
by former President Pervez Musharraf.
Pakistani police set up barricades on the edges of Lahore to try to
block Mr. Sharif's convoy, but his supporters removed them. Police also
barricaded roads into Islamabad with shipping containers.
Earlier Sunday, Mr. Sharif's supporters flooded Lahore's streets in
defiance of a government ban and forced police to retreat. Violence
erupted when some protesters threw stones at the police, who responded
with tear gas and baton charges.
Pakistan's government has ordered a nationwide crackdown on opposition
protests that began Wednesday, saying the move is needed to maintain
security. It says the proper place to debate the restoration of judges
is in Pakistan's parliament, not the streets.
Before leaving his Lahore home Sunday, Mr. Sharif urged supporters to
join him on a "long march" to Islamabad. He accused the government of
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari of turning the country into a
Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party says police who surrounded
his residence early Sunday carried orders to place him and his brother
under house arrest for three days. But the police did not stop the
opposition leader's convoy from exiting the compound.
The whereabouts of his brother Shahbaz Sharif, also a politician, were unknown.
Pakistan's Supreme Court barred the Sharif brothers from holding
elected office last month, prompting both to join a lawyers' campaign
for an independent judiciary.
President Zardari has rejected the campaign's demand to restore the
Supreme Court justices ousted by his predecessor. Doing so could lead
to the reopening of corruption cases against Mr. Zardari, jeopardizing
his eligibility to lead the country.
U.S. officials have expressed concern that Pakistan's political crisis
could distract it from tackling militants along the Afghan border.
Pakistan's government promised Saturday to review the Supreme Court
ruling on the Sharif brothers, but the opposition dismissed the
proposal as insufficient.