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Pakistan protesters march on prime minister’s residence

  • Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • A Pakistan army soldier stands alert near the prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators.  (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    A Pakistan army soldier stands alert near the prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • Pakistani protesters climb on shipping containers to march toward prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters climb on shipping containers to march toward prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • Pakistani protesters remove shipping containers used as a barricade, to march towards prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators.  (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters remove shipping containers used as a barricade, to march towards prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • Pakistani police fire tear gas shells to disperse protesters during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    Pakistani police fire tear gas shells to disperse protesters during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • Pakistani protesters run for cover after police fire tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office.  Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters run for cover after police fire tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • A supporter of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, wearing a headband that reads,  "martyrdom," cries while listening to an emotional speech by ul-Qadri during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    A supporter of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, wearing a headband that reads, "martyrdom," cries while listening to an emotional speech by ul-Qadri during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • Pakistani protesters run for cover during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters run for cover during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • An ambulance carrying injured people makes way through protestors running for cover following police firing tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    An ambulance carrying injured people makes way through protestors running for cover following police firing tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri addresses his supporters during an on-going protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri addresses his supporters during an on-going protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • Pakistani policemen wearing riot gear standby in case of violence near the protest venue of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held on-going parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    Pakistani policemen wearing riot gear standby in case of violence near the protest venue of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held on-going parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • A woman supporter of Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan flashes victory signs during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of  Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadr have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    A woman supporter of Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan flashes victory signs during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadr have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • Women supporters of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri listen to his speak during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have led parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

    Women supporters of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri listen to his speak during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have led parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

  • Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

    Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

  • Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • A Pakistan army soldier stands alert near the prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators.  (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • Pakistani protesters climb on shipping containers to march toward prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • Pakistani protesters remove shipping containers used as a barricade, to march towards prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators.  (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • Pakistani police fire tear gas shells to disperse protesters during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • Pakistani protesters run for cover after police fire tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014.  Protesters aledge fraud in 2013 elections and demand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down from office.  Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • A supporter of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, wearing a headband that reads,  "martyrdom," cries while listening to an emotional speech by ul-Qadri during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • Pakistani protesters run for cover during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • An ambulance carrying injured people makes way through protestors running for cover following police firing tear gas during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed
  • Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri addresses his supporters during an on-going protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • Pakistani policemen wearing riot gear standby in case of violence near the protest venue of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have held on-going parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • A woman supporter of Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan flashes victory signs during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of  Khan and Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadr have held parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • Women supporters of Pakistan's fiery Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri listen to his speak during a protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug 30, 2014. Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ul-Qadri have led parallel anti-government protests to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
  • Pakistani protesters run during clashes near prime minister's home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 30, 3014. Pakistani police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters as they tried to march toward the prime minister’s home in the capital on Saturday, blanketing the route with clouds of white smoke and scattering demonstrators. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

Hundreds of people were injured as Pakistani police officers battled throngs of protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets outside the prime minister’s official residence and the adjacent parliament building.

After a night of clashes, protesters started regrouping at daybreak and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police officers and barricades to reach the premier’s residence. The police strengthened their lines and responded by lobbing tear gas canisters.

Scores of protesters, including 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, axes and even a crane.

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

“Now only women and children are there, and they can take shelter there as long as they want,” he said.

More than 300 people – including women, children and police officers – were admitted to two government hospitals in the Pakistani capital, medics and the police said. The injured had wounds from tear gas shells, batons and rubber bullets, said Dr. Javed Akram, who heads the capital’s main hospital.

Akram said 182 injured were treated at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. He said 37 police officers were among the injured.

An additional 152 were brought to a government hospital near the scene of the clashes, said another physician, Dr. Tanvir Malik.

The protest leaders, cricket-legend-turned politician Imran Khan and anti-government 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 officers 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.

Sharif’s spokesman Asif Kirmani said the government had to use force after protesters tried to attack the center of state power in the capital. Kirmani said that Sharif was not at the residence during the protests, but was at his ancestral home in the eastern city of Lahore.

“A state can’t be left at the mercy of some thousand people,” Kirmani said in an interview with Geo News TV.

Khan said the government’s action against the peaceful protesters caused chaos in the country.

“Now the protests spread all over the country and now it is impossible Nawaz Sharif can sustain his rule over the country,” Khan said.

Asma Jehangir, a human rights activist and political commentator, urged the government to take necessary measures to protect women and children in the protest, but criticized protest leaders for claiming that the demonstration would remain peaceful.

“It is like if you say ‘a peaceful robbery’ ” she said.

Khan and Qadri, a dual Pakistani-Canadian citizen with a wide following, allege that Sharif won the 2013 election due to massive voter fraud and should step down. They also have demanded reforms in Pakistan’s electoral system to prevent voter fraud.

Backed by parliament and many political parties, Sharif has said he will not step down. Government negotiators have tried to convince Qadri and Khan to end their protest.

The protests began with a march from the eastern city of Lahore on the country’s Independence Day, Aug. 14, that reached Islamabad a day later. Khan and Qadri had called for millions of protesters to join but crowds have not been more than tens of thousands. The protesters’ presence and heightened security measures have affected life and badly harmed business in the capital.

The protesters initially camped at another thoroughfare, but moved outside the parliament on Aug. 19. Until yesterday, the rallies had remained festive, with families picnicking and men and women dancing to drums and national songs.

Riot police initially showed restraint during yesterday’s march but when the crowd started removing shipping containers used as barricades, they fired salvos of tear gas canisters that forced the crowds back. TV footage showed protesters, including women and children, scattering in retreat. Some fell to the ground and many protesters, including several children, were shown in TV reports being treated for the effects of tear gas.

Khattak, the police chief, said the police have also arrested dozens of protesters.

“In the given situation, police will arrest who so ever found creating trouble,” said Khattak when asked whether Khan and Qadri was to be arrested. “No one is above the law.”

The police refused to give any estimate about the size of the crowd that had been headed toward the prime minister’s residence.

“They fired tear gas shells at us,” said Ahsanullah Fakhri, 28, who was bleeding from his leg as he exited an ambulance with other injured protesters. “I think they are also firing some bullets, I think rubber bullets,” he added.

Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan visited the scene of the protests to boost police morale.

“A group wanted to capture the prime minister’s house and other buildings. We are under oath, and the police as well, to protect the state assets,” he told reporters at the scene.

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