Police on Friday fired water cannon and resorted to baton charge to gain control over a protest of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) held at Islamabad’s D-Chowk.
Police also used tear-gas shelling to disperse the protesters who had gathered at D-Chowk, a roundabout just outside Islamabad’s Red Zone, to demand subsidies on fertilisers and electricity bills.
Protests of any nature are prohibited in the Red Zone area and police had placed containers to restrict access to D-Chowk. However, the protesters used alternative routes to reach the roundabout where the protest was held.
Police say they acted against protesters who violated this ban on rallies in the capital.
Mohammad Hussain, a leader of the farmers, said police beat the protesters and arrested dozens.
The protesters chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and threatened to seal Islamabad if their demands are not met.
They attempted to reach the Parliament House but police action prevented them from doing so.
Footage broadcasted on TV showed riot police dragging farmers and also protesters throwing stones at the police.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah arrived at the site of the protest shortly after it started.
“Today, the budget is being presented and the farmers are out on the streets protesting,” Shah said.
“The PPP will always stand with you. We believe that Pakistan will only succeed when the poor man is well-fed and his children go to school,” Shah added.
“Prosperity will not come if the country has a debt of Rs800 billion. Regardless of what the budget says, prosperity will not come,” the opposition leader said.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is expected to announce the budget for the upcoming fiscal year later today.
Farmers have long accused successive governments of neglecting the agriculture sector in every single budget.
Services of the city’s Metro bus were temporarily suspended during the protest and offices and shops in the surrounding were closed as well.
The police were able to push the protesters towards China Chowk and Poly Clinic and gained control over the crowd.
At least 180 protesters were arrested and several police officers were wounded in the clashes between police and the protesting farmers.
The farmers had demanded to meet Sharif to present their demands within the first hour of the protest but the demand was not met.