Police, protesters clash
ISLAMABAD (AP):ANTI-GOVERNMENT protesters armed with slingshots and hammers clashed repeatedly with police Sunday in the Pakistani capital as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with top advisers seeking a way out of the crisis that has triggered the biggest challenge yet to his authority.
At least three people were killed and nearly 400 admitted to local hospitals, officials said, in violence that started Saturday night and continued to boil over to Sunday.
The violence has raised the stakes in the two-week sit-in led by opposition politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri. They want the prime minister to step down over their allegations of massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in the country's first democratic transfer of power.
Sharif's party was elected in a landslide in which observers found no evidence of widespread fraud. The prime minister has refused to step down, and negotiators have tried to convince Qadri and Khan to end their protests.
The demonstrations were mostly peaceful until late Saturday, when protesters headed toward the prime minister's residence. When the crowd started removing shipping containers used as barricades, police fired salvos of tear gas that forced protesters back.
Authorities have said they had no choice but to use force on the demonstrators, some of whom wore gas masks.
Hundreds of people were arrested, said Islamabad Police Chief Khalid Khattak. There were scattered clashes yesterday morning, and protesters appeared to regroup later in the afternoon.
By evening, large groups of protesters were located in pockets around the parliament, and some had spread into other parts of the city, said police official Amir Paracha. He said they had taken shields from police and were wielding iron rods, batons, stones, and bricks.