Pakistan protesters storm state TV station
Clashes escalate as PM refuses to step down
Anti-government protesters in Pakistan stormed the national television channel on Monday, forcing the station off air temporarily.
State-run Pakistan Television (PTV) ceased transmission soon after showing baton-wielding protesters loyal to opposition leader Imran Khan and a populist cleric Tahir ul Qadri forcing their way into the station’s building.
Transmission was restored about 20 minutes later when army troops moved in to clear the station’s offices.
Protesters were also reported to be moving in on the prime minister’s house and other key government buildings.
They are demanding the resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, accusing them of election fraud.
“Our workers have laid siege around the Prime Minister’s Office. His Mercedes cannot enter the building,” Qadri told supporters amid cheers.
Earlier, demonstrators clashed with riot police after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rejected their call for him to quit.
Clashes also broke out on Saturday when thousands of demonstrators attempted to march on Sharif's official residence, prompting police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.
At least three people have been killed and more than 500 wounded in two days of clashes, medical personnel said. Woman and children are among the wounded.
Early on Monday, a shipping container placed near the prime minister's residence was set on fire. Police again resorted to tear gas and a baton charge to break up the protesters, injuring many more people.
On Sunday night, Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party vowed to protest “until my last breath,” asking supporters to rebel against the government.
“Nawaz Sharif is a fascist. We will lodge a murder case against Prime Minister Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar over use of excessive force against unarmed and peaceful marchers, resulting in fatalities,” he said.
However, Khan's campaign suffered a major blow when his most senior party leader Javed Hashmi distanced himself from the protest. “Imran Khan will be responsible if martial law is imposed in the country,” Hashmi said.
Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital confirmed three deaths -- two men to injuries during the protest while another died of a heart attack.
Sharif called for parliament to meet on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, with violence spreading to other cities.
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