Anti-government Pakistani cleric's plane diverted, clashes erupt

Anti-government Pakistani cleric's plane diverted, clashes erupt

Pakistani authorities Monday denied permission to a plane carrying an anti-government religious leader to land at the Islamabad airport over security issues.

Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has been living in Canada, returned to Pakistan Monday by a flight of the Emirate Airlines to lead an anti-government protest, Xinhua reported.

However, the flight which was scheduled to land at Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport around 8 a.m., was diverted to Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, confirmed the civil aviation authorities at Islamabad airport.

Thousands of Qadri supporters gathered outside the airport to welcome their leader.
Qadri planned to lead a protest march from Islamabad to Lahore by road.

Clashes erupted as the riot police stopped Qadri's supporters from heading to the airport because of a government ban on political gathering in the capital city.

Officials said 24 policemen were injured as Qadri's supporters hurled stones at them.

Dozens of Qadri supporters were also injured when the police fired tear gas shells and used batons to disperse them.

Angry protestors smashed several vehicles as clashes continued for hours.
Roads to Islamabad have been closed, causing difficulties for the commuters to reach the city.

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