Protesters, Pakistani police clash at march

Demonstrators carrying sticks marched toward the official residence of Pakistan’s prime minister on Saturday.
Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
Demonstrators carrying sticks marched toward the official residence of Pakistan’s prime minister on Saturday.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani police charged with batons and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters marching toward the prime minister’s official residence and the adjacent Parliament building in Islamabad on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. Nearly 125 people were injured in the clashes between police and demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Scores of protesters, mainly women carrying hammers and iron rods, broke down a fence outside the Parliament building, enabling hundreds of people to enter the lawns and parking area, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene and Pakistani television reports.

Islamabad Police Chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with big hammers, wire cutters, and axes, and even had a crane.


Defense Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said police later managed to clear most of the protesters from the Parliament building’s parking area and lawns.

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‘‘Now only women and children are there, and they can take shelter there as long as they want.’’

Nearly 125 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. Tanvir Malik and another doctor who identified herself only as Ms. Abida.

The protest leaders, cricket-legend-turned politician Imran Khan and antigovernment cleric Tahirul Qadri, had called on supporters staging a sit-in for days outside the Parliament building to march on the prime minister’s residence and the legislative chamber. About 20,000 police in riot gear were deployed to block the procession.

In speeches, Khan and Qadri called for protesters to remain peaceful and urged security forces to restrain from using force. Protests demanding Sharif’s resignation were also taking place in Lahore, Karachi, and other Pakistani cities, according to TV reports. Khan described the police action against the crowd as illegal.


‘‘Now we will show this government, we will call for countrywide agitation and we will jam the whole of Pakistan,’’ Khan said.