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Pakistan's Interior Minister Asks To Treat Protesters As Terrorists

Pakistani opposition protesters beat a riot policeman during an anti-government protest in Islamabad, September 1, 2014.
Pakistani opposition protesters beat a riot policeman during an anti-government protest in Islamabad, September 1, 2014.

Pakistan's interior minister has asked lawmakers to give police "clear guidance" to treat violent antigovernment protesters in Islamabad as "intruders and terrorists," saying the demonstrators have attempted a "rebellion against the state."

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s request on September 2 came during an emergency joint session of parliament, after three days of clashes between police and demonstrators who are demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation.

Pakistan has faced political turmoil since mid-August, when tens of thousands of protesters led by Irman Khan and populist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri marched from Lahore to Islamabad.

They are refusing to leave their protest camp outside parliament in Islamabad unless Sharif resigns.

Three protesters were killed in clashes with police that erupted on August 30 when followers of Khan and Qadri tried to storm Sharif’s official residence.

There also were clashes on August 31 and September 1 when protesters briefly seized state television headquarters and tried again to storm Sharif’s residence.

The interior minister on September 2 told lawmakers at that the street demonstrations were “not a protest, a sit-in, or a political gathering,” but rather “a rebellion against state institutions” and “a rebellion against the state of Pakistan."

He said: “Clear guidance from this parliament would give strength to the police.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the government was considering taking action against demonstrators that included “selective use of force” and arrests.

The protesters accuse Sharif’s government of corruption and say the prime minister came to power through an election in 2013 that was rigged.

Sharif denies the allegations and has refused to step down.

Lawmakers from Imran Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party were boycotting the September 2 parliamentary session.

But other opposition parties have refused the call for Sharif to resign, and said during the emergency joint session of the legislature that it would be unconstitutional for the head of government to be forced to resign by street demonstrations.

With reporting by Reuters