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Islamabad considers crackdown

September 1, 2014

Pakistan’s government has said it considering selective use of force against protestors in the capital Islamabad. The demonstrators have been demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation.

Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Pakistan’s defense minister, Khwaja Asif, told news agency Reuters that his government would not hesitate to curb protestors attacking state institutions. He said, "If not mass arrests, selective use of force can be used. The writ of the state must be enforced."

Asif said that his government was planning a decisive move later in the day: "I personally feel that the next few hours will determine the course of coming events." Earlier on Monday, Pakistan's military chief Raheel Sharif met with Nawaz Sharif to discuss strategies to deal with anti-government protestors who have been rallying for days and demanding that the prime minister quit from his post.

Earlier, demonstrators belonging to opposition leader Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) and those loyal to leader Tahir ul-Qadri stormed the state television building. The channel, known as Pakistan Television (PTV) was briefly forced to go off air after the protestors clashed with the police and came close to the prime minister’s residence.

Protestors also clashed with the police in various areas of Islamabad’s Red Zone, which houses government buildings. Five police officers and three protestors were injured in the violence on Monday. In all, three protestors died in clashes over the weekend.

The violence dashed hopes of a peace deal between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition leader Khan. Imran Khan, religious leader Tahir ul-Qadri and their loyalists have been demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over allegations of discrepancies in last year’s general elections.

Defense Minister Khwaja Asif has flatly denied the possibility of Prime Minister Sharif resigning from his post or of the military staging a coup to seize power. Sharif was toppled in a coup during his last term as prime minister in 1999.

mg/hc (dpa, AP, Reuters)