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Clashes reported as Pakistan protesters advance on capital

By Agencies in Islamabad and Gujranwala, Pakistan | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-16 08:32

Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan said he and his followers were fired on by government supporters during a rally on Friday, but police said that although there were clashes between the two sides, no shots were fired.

Khan is leading thousands of his supporters to the capital, Islamabad, in a rally to demand that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign, saying that last year's general elections in which he was swept to power were rigged.

Police and witnesses said activists from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party clashed with supporters of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N in the town of Gujranwala, about 200 kilometers southeast of Islamabad.

Khan told ARY television news: "They threw stones at us while standing at police vans. They fired bullets at us."

However, a police spokesperson told AFP: "Workers of PTI and PML-N clashed in Gujranwala and threw stones at each other. There was no firing incident."

Reuters reported that gunshots hit Khan's vehicle as he led his supporters through Gujranwala. Residents brandishing ruling-party posters attacked his convoy, throwing shoes and stones. Khan was not injured, his spokesperson said.

Khan and populist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri are slowly leading separate processions toward Islamabad, where they plan to occupy main streets until Sharif resigns.

Security was tight in the capital, and authorities had blocked several main roads with shipping containers and barbed wire in an effort to thwart the marches.

Riot police were out in force, but hundreds of protesters began to gather, banging drums, singing and dancing as they prepared to welcome their comrades approaching the city.

The protests have raised questions over stability at a time when the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million is fighting an offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants, and the influence of anti-Western and sectarian groups is growing.

In the latest violence, 10 militants were killed and 13 members of the security forces were wounded in attacks on two air force bases in the city Quetta late on Thursday, the third time since June airports had been targeted.

Reuters - AFP

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