Protest standoff at Pakistan parliament

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Protest standoff at Pakistan parliament

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Anti-government protesters in Pakistan are pursuing efforts to blockade parliament and force the prime minister to quit.

For days, they have been on Islamabad’s streets, with a mass sit-in to demand the resignation of Nawaz Sharif over claims of corruption and that he rigged last year’s election.

The demonstrators are led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri whose representatives have met a government delegation.

The peaceful protests have raised questions over the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan whose civilian government is struggling to assert its authority after decades when the country swung between democracy and military rule.

The military is urging a political solution to the crisis but those loyal to ul-Qadri are talking tough.

One elderly supporter, Bilal Ahmed, who travelled from Karachi, said that despite being sleep deprived he would go into parliament and confront those inside if the cleric so commands.

The premier and others were able to get into and out of parliament – with a rear entrance used. Imran Khan has threatened to send his protesters into Sharif’s official residence.

Khan and ul-Qadri meanwhile have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court to answer complaints over their protests.