ISLAMABAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters armed with wire cutters and backed by cranes marched on Pakistan’s parliament Tuesday, removing barriers blocking them from soldiers guarding the seat of the country’s government.
The protesters, wearing masks and carrying makeshift shields, hammered through barbed wire and locks connecting shipping containers together that authorities put on roads to block off Islamabad’s so-called “Red Zone,” which also holds the president and prime minister’s ceremonial homes and many diplomatic posts.
Women and children also took part in the march as police officers stood by and watched, setting up a possible showdown later between hundreds of waiting soldiers and some 30,000 protesters backing opposition candidate Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.
Both men have called on by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down over allegations of fraud in last year’s election. Sharif has refused and ordered the soldiers out into the streets, the first military deployment in the capital since Pakistan has been under civilian leadership. Authorities previously said they would not allow protesters to enter the “Red Zone,” though protesters met no immediate resistance late Tuesday night.