Pressure mounts on PM Nawaz Sharif to quit as protests continue

ISLAMABAD Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:04am IST

1 of 4. A supporter of Tahir ul-Qadri, Sufi cleric and leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) political party, prays while wearing a gas mask, for protection from tear gas released by the police to disperse the supporters as they marched to the prime minister's house, in Islamabad August 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came under new pressure to resign on Friday as thousands massed outside his residence following more than two weeks of demonstrations against his rule.

Protesters led by former cricketer Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadhave have been camped outside parliament for more than two weeks. But it was the first time they had staged a rally directly outside the office of the prime minister to demand he step down.

On Saturday, Sharif once again said he would not resign, and police fired tear gas at protesters camped in the so-called Red Zone, home to many government buildings and embassies.

Pakistan has been ruled by the military for more than half its history, and the army stepped in this week to try to defuse the unrest. But as of Saturday night, at least 8,000 protesters were still camped out in the centre of the capital.

Sharif has displeased the army by trying to strengthen civilian rule and improve relations with India and Afghanistan, and the latest conflict has given the military an opportunity to sideline him on security and foreign policy issues.

(Reporting by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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