ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of protesters trying to topple Pakistan’s government stormed the state broadcaster on Monday as fresh clashes with police broke out in Islamabad.
Transmission of the main Pakistani Television (PTV) news channel was cut minutes after an anchor announced demonstrators had entered the building and “besieged” staff.
Protesters armed with rocks and wooden clubs earlier Monday clashed with police, hours after the powerful army called for a peaceful settlement of the political crisis.
Opposition groups marched to the capital on August 15 to try to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, triggering a crisis that has raised the spectre of military intervention in a country that has been ruled for half its history by the army.
The army on Sunday night urged the government and protesters to settle their differences peacefully, but warned it was “committed to playing its part in ensuring security of the state” after clashes left three dead and hundreds injured.
Violence began on Saturday night when followers of opposition party leader and former cricketer Imran Khan and of populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri tried to storm Sharif’s official residence.
Fresh clashes erupted on Monday morning as heavy rain fell on the capital, when more than 3,000 demonstrators again tried to march on the building, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
Protesters pelted riot police with stones and some smashed up motorbikes with wooden clubs. Police tried to respond with tear gas but the heavy rain appeared to make it ineffective.
Some managed to breach the perimeter fences of some official buildings, but paramilitary security forces stopped them at the entrance to the PM’s house.
Both Khan and Qadri appeared on the shipping containers they have used as stages to urge their supporters not to resort to violence.