Pakistan calls in reinforcement amid clashes

Thousands of additional forces called to Islamabad as anti-government protesters continue to camp outside PM's house.

    Anti-government protesters have continued to clash with the police in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as government called for reinforcements after overnight clashes left at least three dead and more than 300 injured.

    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said on Sunday that 4,000 policemen in Punjab province have been asked to reach Islamabad by this evening.

    The protesters started regrouping at daybreak on Sunday and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police and barricades to reach the PM's residence, the AP news agency said. Police strengthened their lines and responded by lobbing tear gas canisters, the agency added.

    Thousands of followers of politician Imran Khan and religious leader Tahir ul Qadri have been camped outside parliament since August 15 demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, triggering a crisis that has raised the spectre of military intervention.

    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reports from Islamabad.

    Government's offer to re-open talks with the opposition groups cut no ice with the protesters.

    Information minister Pervaiz Rashid said on Sunday that the government remained open to restarting negotiations to end the situation peacefully.

    "The government did not initiate the clashes. They turned violent and tried to enter sensitive government buildings, which are the symbol of the state," he said, speaking to the private Geo News channel.

    "They wanted their demands to be met at gunpoint but still, our doors are open for talks."

    Overnight clashes

    Scores of protesters, including women, carrying hammers and iron rods broke down a fence outside the parliament building late on Saturday, enabling hundreds of people to enter the lawns and parking area, according to an AP photographer at the scene.

    Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak told the AP that the protesters were armed with large hammers, wire cutters, axes and even a crane.

    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.

    Opposition groups, who claim the last year's general election which swept Sharif to power was rigged, attempted to storm the prime minister's offical residence on Saturday night, using cranes to remove barricades.

    Backed by parliament and many political parties, Sharif has refuses to step down.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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