Islamabad plunged into chaos by ‘occupation forces’ as Pakistan's beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepares to address parliament

Sharif is under pressure from protest groups

Asia Correspondent

Pakistan’s increasingly beleaguered government dismissed anti-government protesters as an “occupation force” after Islamabad plunged into further chaos today.

Demonstrators stormed the offices of the state television channel, and forced it from the air until they were ejected by troops and paramilitary forces. And clashes between protesters and police resumed this evening local time, with security personnel firing tear gas to repel demonstrators trying to reach the Prime Minister’s official residence.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is to address a joint session of the country’s parliament, a move widely interpreted as an attempt to show he is in control of a volatile and dangerous situation.

The clashes between protesters and police continued despite heavy rain. Local television channels showed images of men armed with wooden clubs running along Constitution Avenue, which leads through the centre of Islamabad. Reports said a senior police officer was seriously injured after being beaten.

 

Earlier, protesters stormed into the offices of Pakistan Television (PTV), briefly forcing it off the air, until they were removed by troops.

“They have stormed the PTV office,” one news anchor said, just before the screen went blank, according to the Reuters news agency. “PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up.”

The latest drama came after a weekend of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces that left three people dead and around 200 requiring medical treatment.

The 20,000 or so demonstrators who have besieged Islamabad are part of two different protest groups. One is led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who has claimed last year’s election, which Mr Sharif won handsomely, was rigged. The other group is lead by a Muslim cleric who usually lives in Canada, Tahir ul Qadri, who also claims Mr Sharif is corrupt.

Mr Khan, 61, has claimed his supporters are acting within their constitutional rights, but the government has dismissed this.

Senator Tariq Azim, a spokesman for Mr Sharif, told The Independent: “One expects better from Imran Khan, who has lived in London. Does he think he’d be able to do this in Downing Street? The police would move him on in two minutes. Yet he is telling his people, many of whom don’t know better, that this happens in other countries.”

He added: “This has become an occupation force. It is no longer a democratic protest.”

As is often the case in Pakistan, one pulsating uncertainty is what the powerful military may or may not do. On Sunday evening, the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who is not related to the Prime Minister, summoned his senior commanders for a crisis meeting to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the capital.

In a statement released afterwards, the military said that while it reaffirmed its support for democracy it considered with “serious concern” the violent turn the protests had taken.

“It was once again reiterated that the situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means,” the statement said. “[The] army remains committed to playing its part in ensuring the security of the state and will never fall short of meeting national aspirations.”

Imran Khan heads up the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party Imran Khan heads up the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party (AFP)

On Monday, the army chief met with the Prime Minister. One television channel claimed the general had asked the Premier to stand down but this was rapidly denied by a military spokesman

Mr Sharif was elected to his third term as Prime Minister in an general election held in May 2013, with Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party coming second in many major cities. Mr Khan accepted the results of the election but called for a probe into alleged vote rigging.

He launched his so-called freedom protest after claiming the government and the election commission had failed to follow up on its agreement to launch an inquiry.

Many have suggested that the protesters may be receiving the support of the military. Both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri have denied such claims.

On Monday, a senior member of Mr Khan’s party, Javed Hashimi, who had broken with the party leadership over its decision to march towards the Premier’s residence, claimed the former cricketer had told officials: “We cannot move forward without the army.”

Mr Sharif has long had a difficult and testy relationship with the country’s armed forces. He was forced from office in 1999 by a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf, the then-army chief.

Since his election victory 16 months ago, Mr Sharif’s relationship with the army establishment has not been improved by his decision to allow the prosecution of Mr Musharraf – charged with treason – to proceed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower