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Talks to Resolve Pakistan Crisis Crumble Amid Police Crackdown on Protesters

A large number of protesters in Islamabad were reportedly detained by authorities in a series of raids that began Friday evening.

by Liz Fields
Sep 13 2014, 7:25pm

Photo by Anjum Naveed/AP

Tensions in Islamabad have escalated after a large number of the protesters that have been camped in the center of Pakistan's capital for weeks were detained by authorities in a series of raids that began Friday evening, according to Imran Khan, the leader of a key government opposition party.

Khan, a former cricket star, together with firebrand cleric and politician Tahir-ul-Qadri, has been leading the campaign for weeks, calling for the resignation of Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif amid accusations of corruption and election rigging in the country's first democratic ballot last year.

The opposition leaders have reportedly been in talks with both the government and with the country's powerful military in an effort to resolve the crisis, but both said that negotiations would be suspended after the arrests of the protesters, according to the Associated Press.

Tens of thousands have turned out at Khan and Qadri's planned rallies to support calls for Sharif's resignation and the dissolution of parliament. The demonstrations took a violent turn at the end of last month when more than 400 people were injured and three killed in clashes with authorities outside Sharif's official residence and the parliament building.

The March on Islamabad. Watch the VICE News dispatch here.

A day later, protesters stormed Pakistan's state television station, briefly taking broadcasts off air and intimidating staff before the military arrived to break up the chaos.

On Saturday, Pakistan's Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Khan, denied arresting the protesters over the weekend, claiming that police had detained only those activists that raided the television station and other government buildings.

Sharif, who is currently serving his third term as president, having been ousted once before in a military coup in 1999, has refused to vacate power, leading to concerns that the army could potentially retake control amid a political deadlock.

The military has maintained throughout the process that it is merely a neutral third party.

Three People Were Killed and 400 Wounded During Protests in Pakistan This Weekend. Read more here.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government faces a range of other pressing and deadly situations across the country, including an ongoing battle to respond to the deadly flash floods caused by monsoon rains that swept through Kashmir last week.

Hundreds have died and thousands of others remain stranded in the region as a result of the floods, which has prompted further anger at the government for their perceived slow and inadequate response to the disaster.

Elsewhere in the country's southwest, a car bomb exploded Saturday in a crowded bazaar killing three people and injuring 24, police told the Associated Press.

The car, carrying security personnel, was driving through a market in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, when the bomb detonated, killing a paramilitary officer and two civilians, according to senior police officer Abdur Razzak Cheema.

The area has faced a low-threat insurgency for a number of years from separatists seeking a fairer share of gas and oil revenues the government is reaping from the region.

Pakistan's army are currently also launching a large-scale offensive against Taliban militants in the North Waziristan region along the country's border with Afghanistan.

On Friday, the government announced the arrest of 10 militants suspected of shooting teen activist Malala Yousafai in 2012.

Protesters in Pakistan Storm State Television Station as Demonstrations Continue. Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

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