ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s lawmakers held an emergency session Tuesday over the political crisis roiling the country as thousands of anti-government protesters remained camped out in front of the parliament building, demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign.
The session of both houses – the National Assembly and the Senate – is an attempt to rally support behind the prime minister, who is facing the biggest threat to his tenure since he took office a little more than a year ago.
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Anti-government demonstrators led by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri converged on the capital in mid-August. The protests turned violent this weekend, when clashes between the demonstrators and police left three people dead and hundreds injured.
Now, thousands of protesters, who broke through a fence surrounding the parliament, are camped out on the lawn in front of the building and have essentially taken over Constitution Avenue which runs past the country’s main institutions of power, including the Supreme Court and the prime minister’s office.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan lashed out at the demonstrators during the opening speech of the session, as the prime minister sat quietly by his side.
“This is a revolt against Pakistan,” the interior minister said. “They are fake revolutionaries, and they are terrorists.”
It was not immediately clear if Sharif, who has repeatedly vowed not to resign, will address the session Tuesday.
Khan and Qadri allege widespread fraud in the May 2013 election that brought Sharif to power in a landslide victory. International observers did not find any indication to back up their claims of vote-rigging.
Khan and Qadri have been addressing their followers frequently, urging them to come to the streets to push out Sharif from power. They both claimed they would lead a million-person march on to the capital, but the largest crowds have only seen tens of thousands of people.