Over 300 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. (AP)
Islamabad: Over 300 people were injured in overnight clashes as Pakistani police battled thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets outside the PM's official residence and the adjacent parliament building.
With the daybreak on Sunday, protesters started regrouping and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police and barricades to reach the premier's residence.
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The protesters are being led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri. They claim the 2013 elections which saw Sharif sweep to power were massively rigged.
Despite the fortnight-long protests, the government has struck a defiant note, issuing a statement saying that Sharif would not be stepping down.
Speaking to his supporters this morning, a defiant Khan refused to end the protests and told his supporters across the country that their sacrifices "will not go in vain." "I promise you today will be the final day of the war," he added.
To check the protesters, the police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak told AFP that the police exercised restraint but the protesters were armed with axes, wire cutters and hammers. According to Railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, the protesters even tried to uproot the entry gate of the prime minister's house.
Some TV reports said one protester died during the demonstrations. He reportedly fell into an open ditch.
The injured were rushed to Islamabad's two main hospitals, and the number of casualties is expected to rise as clashes continue. A spokesman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Islamabad told AFP said most of the victims had been injured by rubber bullets, and that 35 of them were women.
Demonstrations have also erupted in the eastern city of Lahore and the port city of Karachi.
The protesters, led by Khan and Qadri, had been camped outside parliament house since August 15 demanding PM Nawaz Sharif quit amid allegations of vote rigging. The crisis took on a new dimension earlier in the week after the government asked the powerful army to mediate, raising fears the military would use the situation to enact a "soft coup" and increase its dominance over civilian authorities.
Local and foreign observers said the polls were credible, and analysts believe the protests have been coordinated by the powerful army as a means of re-asserting its dominance over civilian authorities.
Khan told Express News during the clashes yesterday that he was inside a shipping container in front of the prime minister's house. "We will continue our struggle against the government, till our last breath," he said, calling for demonstrations across Pakistan. Qadri was in a bullet-proof car close to the scene, according to television images.