Protesters push closer to Pakistan PM’s house

A supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek political party, prays while wearing a gas mask.

A supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek political party, prays while wearing a gas mask.

Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary forces entered the headquarters of the state television channel PTV in Islamabad on Monday after a crowd of protesters stormed the building taking the channel off the air, Reuters news agency reported.

A PTV source said the protesters had occupied the main control room and smashed some equipment. Later, television pictures showed uniformed members of a paramilitary force and soldiers walking calmly into the building.

“They have stormed the PTV office,” a news anchor said just before the screen went blank.

A witness told Reuters the soldiers later escorted the protesters out and placed the building under their protection.

While there were no signs of violence and the protesters left the building peacefully, the anchor said that “PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up.”

The station later came back on air.

Earlier clashes

A large crowd of Pakistani protesters pushed closer to the prime minister’s house in central Islamabad on Monday, fighting running battles with police after breaking into the Pakistan Secretariat area which houses government ministries.

Pakistani police clashed with stone-throwing protesters on Monday in the heart of the capital city of Islamabad following weeks of demonstrations calling for the step down of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Reuters reported.

Protests turned violent over the weekend and despite heavy rain on Monday, crowds of demonstrators tried to storm into the PM’s residence pushing through lines of policemen.

Opposition leader Imran Khan had called on his supporters to take to the streets on Sunday, after at least three people were killed and 200 others were wounded during clashes.

“I am prepared to die here. I have learned that government plans a major crackdown against us tonight,” Khan said.

“I am here till my last breath,” he told a crowd of supporters on Sunday.

The United States strongly opposes any efforts to impose change on Pakistan’s political system through violence or destruction of property, the State Department said Monday.

It is speculated that the Pakistani army may take decisive actions to end the crisis.

Senior hospital official Dr. Wasim Khawaja said Sunday that protester Naveed Razzaq drowned in a ditch after he was in a crowd that was bombarded with tear gas.

He was the first one to be killed from clashes.

Razzaq was a supporter of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who along with Khan has been leading twin protests since Aug. 14 calling on Sharif to resign, alleging massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in Pakistan’s first democratic transfer of power.

Sharif, who swept to office in the country’s first democratic transition of power last year, has firmly resisted opposition calls for him to resign while agreeing to meet their other demands such as an investigation into alleged fraud during last year’s election.


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