US Envoys Try to Defuse Pakistan Crisis

Obama administration holds talks as violence, protests continue
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2009 8:31 AM CDT
Pakistan's opposition leader Nawaz Sharif meets US Ambassador Anne Patterson in Lahore, on Thursday, March 12, 2009.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The US is attempting to defuse the escalating political crisis in Pakistan, reports the New York Times, as the police continued to beat and arrest protesters marching to Islamabad. The American ambassador yesterday visited Nawaz Sharif, the former PM whose supporters have joined the lawyers movement in anti-government demonstrations. Later in the day, envoy Richard Holbrooke spoke to Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari.

The US involvement has led to speculation that Washington is trying to broker a deal between Sharif and Zardari to end the violence and renew the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Yesterday in Karachi, police in riot gear used batons on demonstrating lawyers and blocked buses and vans from joining the march to the capital. The protesters should reach Islamabad by Monday, but the government has already banned any demonstration.