Supporters of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of
political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), carry sticks
as they move towards the Prime Minister's house during the
Revolution March in Islamabad. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
Thousands of protesters massed outside the residence of
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to demand he
step down, after efforts to find a negotiated solution to the
country's political crisis failed.
Pakistan has been gripped by unrest for more than two weeks,
with protest leaders Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri saying
they will not back back down unless Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif resigns. On Saturday Sharif once again said he would
Security forces fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday
night and the opposition said a woman was killed in the
clashes. Police were not immediately available for comment.
Late on Friday, up to 8,000 protesters, some armed with
clubs, had gathered outside parliament, with police on
Pakistan's military stepped in this week to try to defuse the
unrest. Qadri said the army had offered to mediate in the
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million, has been
ruled by the military for half of its entire history and has
repeatedly oscillated between civilian and military rule.
Although the army's role is key to how the crisis unfolds,
few believe the army is bent on seizing power again.
Nevertheless, its public intervention has demonstrated how
fragile Pakistan's democracy is, more than a year after
Sharif swept to office in the country's first democratic
transition of power.
Sharif has displeased the army by trying to strengthen
civilian rule and improve relations with India and
Afghanistan, and the latest conflict has given the military
an opportunity to sideline him on security and foreign policy
Sharif also angered the military by putting the former army
chief, Pervez Musharraf, on trial for treason. Musharraf
ousted Sharif in the 1999 coup.
The army's involvement is likely to unnerve some Pakistanis
but it also offers Khan and Qadri a face-saving solution to
end their deadlocked protest as both are seen as close to the