Anti-Government Protests Intensify in Pakistan

September 2, 2014

Anti-government protests in central Islamabad have continued to escalate, with protestors storming important government buildings, including the private home of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, over the weekend and breaking into the headquarters of Pakistan National Television on Monday.   

Thousands of supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek's (PAT) Tahirul Qadri have been diligently protesting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's regime.

The situation has continued to intensify in the past couple of days and the protesters have become bolder. Over the weekend, protesters pushed through police lines into the capital's "red zone," which contains Parliament, the Supreme Court, and many diplomatic missions.

The violence continued on Sunday when protestors attempted to storm the Prime Minister's official residenceThe ensuing clashes in which police fired rubber bullets and tear gas resulted in three protestors dead and at least 500 people wounded, including around 100 police officers. Over 3,000 protestors continued relentlessly on Monday in another attempt to storm Sharif's home. 

Protesters also broke into and occupied the headquarters of Pakistan National Television (PTV) on Monday, causing a 45 minute disruption of broadcasting services until paramilitary soldiers of the Pakistan Rangers were able to clear the building of protestors. Protestors left the building without violence, though the PTV headquarters suffered visible damage. 

The escalation of protests in Islamabad poses a major threat to Pakistan's fragile democracy. The army has so far indicated that it does not wish to intervene and has called on the government to resolve the situation "politically, without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means." The army stated on Monday that it is an "apolitical institution and has expressed its unequivocal support for democracy at numerous occasions." 

This, however, has not silenced the fears of military intervention in a country that has had a long history of the military stepping in. Sharif himself is no stranger to military seizure of power in Pakistan, as he was ousted by a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 during his second tenure as Prime Minister. 

Despite this history, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday afternoon. The outcome of the meeting is still unclear, though both the army and government have already issued statements against rumors that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was advised to step down. 


Photo courtesy of Abid Zia

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