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Thursday 18 September 2014

Sharif holds talks after protests

Published 01/09/2014 | 13:42

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Pakistani protesters beat a police officer during a clash in Islamabad. (AP)
Pakistani army troops stand guard at the main entry gate of the state television building which was occupied by protesters in Islamabad (AP)

Pakistan's prime minister and army chief have held marathon meetings over violent anti-government protests that could force the premier to resign.

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif again vowed he would not step down under duress, even as protesters briefly took over the country's state-run television broadcaster and battled security forces in the streets. But the pressure from three days of violent protests on Mr Sharif has intensified amid reports - later denied by the military - that the country's powerful army chief advised him to resign.

The parliamentary session tomorrow appears to be an attempt to rally political support to the prime minister's side. While many politicians have backed him so far, many in the country have increasingly grown worried about the protests.

The turmoil comes as part of the mass demonstrations led by cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and opposition politician Imran Khan, who both demand Mr Sharif step down over their allegations of fraud in last year's election. Their protests, which have been peaceful for weeks, turned ugly this weekend when clashes between protesters and security forces killed three people and wounded some 400 in running street battles in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Today began with more violence.

Demonstrators briefly took over Pakistan's state television station, forcing the channel off the air. Senior official Athar Farooq said 20 cameras went missing as protesters overran the station, armed with sticks. The intruders also destroyed equipment and fought with employees.

Soldiers and paramilitary Rangers later reached the building and began to clear it of protesters.

The rallies againstMr Sharif constitute the biggest threat to his government. Several rounds of negotiations between representatives of Mr Khan and Mr Qadri and the government have failed to resolve the crisis.

The two opposition leaders allege widespread fraud in the country's May 2013 election, in which Mr Sharif's party won by a landslide. International observers found no evidence indicating rampant election tampering.

Press Association

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