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Sunday 21st September 2014
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Hundreds Hurt In Violent Pakistan Clashes

Sunday, 31st August 2014 04:01

At least 300 people have been wounded in clashes between police and protesters in Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The violence comes amid an ongoing two-week political stand-off over claims Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's 2013 election win was the result of vote rigging,

Starting late on Saturday and continuing into early Sunday, the disorder erupted after around 25,000 people marched from parliament to the PM's house.

An AFP reporter at the scene said those on the march, which was led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir ul Qadri, attempted to remove barricades around the house with cranes.

Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said officers exercised restraint but that protesters were armed with axes, wire cutters and hammers.

"They had a crane and drove it until the entrance of the presidency," he said.

"We are using only tear gas and firing rubber bullets where needed."               

Railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said protesters tried to uproot the entry gate to the prime minister's home.                

The demonstrators had been camped outside parliament house since August 15 demanding Mr Sharif step down.

The crisis took on a new dimension earlier in the week after the government asked the army to mediate, raising fears the military would use the situation to enact a "soft coup" and increase its dominance over civilian authorities.

Speaking as fighting broke out on Saturday, defence minister Khawaja Asif said: "There are 1,600 to 2,000 trained terrorists. They have 200 women who are trained in the use of firearms and they have come with the intention of occupying state buildings.

"These are buildings that are symbols of the state. Their attempts are being resisted. And we will resist these with full force."

Protesters were carrying batons, iron rods and sling-shots. The injured were taken to Islamabad's two main hospitals, with the number of casualties expected to rise as clashes continue.