ISLAMABAD – The protests in Pakistan demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — headed by opposition leader Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri — intensified in Islamabad on Saturday night, as hundreds of protesters broke the fence around Parliament and entered the building.
Many protesters also marched towards PM Sharif’s residence in the high-security Red Zone. The police, who initially allowed the protesters to continue the march, reportedly fired tear gas later to disperse them.
One woman protester was killed, said reports, adding that at least 85 other protesters were injured. Eight policemen were also injured in the protests, said reports by Pakistani TV channels.
Thousands of supporters of Mr Khan and Mr Qadri had been camped outside Parliament since August 15. They want PM Sharif to quit, claiming the election which swept him to power last year was rigged.
Mr Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Mr Qadri, who heads the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), had earlier announced a shift of the protest venue.
Mr Khan’s party has called for a strike in Karachi on Sunday.
The protesters used crane and bolt cutters to inch their way past a barricade of shipping containers as authorities rushed forces to deal with the volatile situation.
Before the protesters set off on their march, the Interior Ministry announced that soldiers would be deployed to stop the protesters.
“I will lead the march to the PM House. All my supporters should follow me,” Mr Khan had said. He also urged women and children to stay behind until asked by him to join the march.
The Pakistan government, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of Mr Sharif’s resignation. There is no question of PM Sharif’s resignation, nor will he be proceeding on leave, the Pakistan government said in a press release.
Mr Sharif had dismissed the political crisis as “a tiny storm” that would end soon.
“This is just a tiny storm, a tumult, which would end in a few days,” Mr Sharif had told reporters in Lahore earlier today.