Pakistani anti-government protesters stormed the state TV building today, forcing the channel briefly off the air as they clashed with police and pushed further into the sprawling Red Zone government complex in the capital, Islamabad, in an effort to reach the prime minister's residence. The violence is the latest in the turmoil roiling Pakistan, where anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan have been leading twin protests since mid-August calling on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. Over the weekend, three people died and hundreds were injured in what amounted to running street battles between the police and the demonstrators.
The protesters, armed with clubs and many wearing gas masks, hurled rocks at the police. Five police officers, including a senior Islamabad police chief, and three protesters were taken to the hospital. The protesters made it to a gate that surrounds the prime minister's residence, where they were met by paramilitary Rangers and army troops. They also stormed into the building of the Pakistani state broadcaster, located in another area of the Red Zone, and forced the TV station briefly off the air. Inside the state TV building, protesters moved through the corridors with sticks and clubs, smashing equipment as visibly nervous employees looked on. "We have not asked anybody to enter any buildings, they are not our people," said Khan, distancing himself from those who stormed the TV station.