Three demonstrators were killed and 400 more people were injured after thousands of anti-government protestors swarmed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's residence in Islamabad calling for his resignation, officials said Sunday.
The casualties came after two weeks of demonstrations led by opposition leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, and add to the surge of public pressure on Sharif to step down amid accusations of mass corruption and election fraud.
Sharif refused to vacate power, even as police fought to hold back about 25,000 demonstrators outside his residence on Saturday night, according to local media.
Police used batons and fired rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas into crowds. An unspecified number of local journalists who were covering the demonstration were injured in the melee, according to Pakistani Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.
"I tried to protect journalists as much as I could and it is true that media personnel were being beaten up," Saad Rafique told Pakistan's Dawn News. "I went and embraced some of them so they could be stopped — even I got hit…. This collective attack on the media makes us think that it was planned to make us look bad."
Local hospital officials concluded that one of the protestors drowned in a ditch after his group was hit with tear gas; the other two deaths were a result of rubber bullet wounds. Among the 400 wounded were women, children, and policemen, Dr. Javed Akram, the head of Islamabad's main hospital, told the Associated Press.
On Saturday evening, a group of protestors, some bearing hammers, axes, and wire cutters, descended on Pakistan's Parliament building, where they broke down a fence and overran the lawns and parking lot, according to Islamabad Police Chief Khalid Khattak.
The demonstrations began on Pakistan's Independence Day on August 14, but have seen a rise in both size and violence in recent days. Khan and Qadri have remained on site throughout the ordeal, giving public speeches and condemning police brutality.
Khan released a video to Facebook on Saturday calling for "all democracy-loving Pakistanis" to join the protest, a few hours after the cricket-legend-turned-politician alleged that police attacked his bus with tear gas.
The situation remains deadlocked, as Sharif continues to ignore demands that he leave office. The military has offered to step in to mediate the impasse, though Sharif has increasingly alienated the military through his trial of former Army chief and President Pervez Musharraf on charges of treason.
Khan and Qadri are reportedly both in talks with the military, and the offer of intervention is not widely seen as an attempt by the Army to regain power.
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