Thousands of protesters clash with police near Pakistan prime minister's house; 300 inured

  • Article by: ZARAR KHAN , Associated Press
  • Updated: August 30, 2014 - 9:25 PM

ISLAMABAD — Hundreds of people were injured as Pakistani police battled throngs of protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets outside the prime minister's official residence and the adjacent parliament building.

After a night of clashes, protesters started regrouping at daybreak Sunday and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police and barricades to reach the premier's residence. Police strengthened their lines and responded by lobbing tear gas canisters.

Scores of protesters, including women, carrying hammers and iron rods broke down a fence outside the parliament building, enabling hundreds of people to enter the lawns and parking area, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene and Pakistani television reports.

Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with big hammers, wire cutters, axes and even a crane.

Defense Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said police later managed to clear most of the protesters from the parliament building's parking area and lawns.

"Now only women and children are there, and they can take shelter there as long as they want," he said.

More than 300 people — including women, children and police officers — were admitted to two government hospitals in the Pakistani capital, medics and police said. The injured had wounds from tear gas shells, batons and rubber bullets, said Dr. Javed Akram, who heads the capital's main hospital.

Akram said 182 injured were treated at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. He said 37 police officers were among the injured.

Another 152 were brought to a government hospital near the scene of the clashes, said another physician, Dr. Tanvir Malik.

The protest leaders, cricket-legend-turned politician Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahirul Qadri, had called on supporters staging a sit-in for days outside the parliament building to march on the prime minister's residence and the legislative chamber. About 20,000 police in riot gear were deployed to block the procession.

In speeches, Khan and Qadri called for protesters to remain peaceful and urged security forces to restrain from using force. Protests demanding Sharif's resignation were also taking place in Lahore, Karachi and other Pakistani cities, according to TV reports.

Khan described the police action against the crowd as illegal.

"Now we will show this government. We will call for countrywide agitation and we will jam the whole of Pakistan," Khan said.

Sharif's spokesman Asif Kirmani said the government had to use force after protesters tried to attack the center of state power in the capital. Kirmani said that Sharif was not at the residence during the protests, but was at his ancestral home in the eastern city of Lahore.

"A state can't be left at the mercy of some thousand people," Kirmani said in an interview with Geo News TV.

Khan said the government's action against the peaceful protesters caused chaos in the country.

"Now the protests spread all over the country and now it is impossible Nawaz Sharif can sustain his rule over the country," Khan said.

Asma Jehangir, a human rights activist and political commentator, urged the government to take necessary measures to protect women and children in the protest, but criticized protest leaders for claiming that the demonstration would remain peaceful.

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