The Pakistani army has been deployed outside the Pakistan State Television, or PTV, building in Islamabad after anti-government protesters stormed in and forced the channel off the air on Monday, Dawn News reported.
Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who heads the Pakistan Awami Tehreek party, have also reportedly appealed to protesters to follow orders issued by the army.
"Don't cross any boundaries set by the army," Qadri reportedly said.
Three people were killed earlier on Sunday and nearly 500 were wounded when protesters attempted to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s official residence, worsening the weeks-long political standoff in the country, according to media reports.
Police reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of stone-throwing protesters, led by Khan and Qadri. Thousands of protesters have also laid siege to the country’s parliament building in Islamabad, Dawn News reported.
Raheel Sharif, head of the Pakistani army, held an emergency meeting with the military high command late on Sunday. In a statement released following the meeting, the army called for a political and peaceful resolution to the conflict, adding that “further use of force will only aggravate the problem.”
Thousands of protesters have been camped outside the country’s parliament since Aug. 15, demanding Sharif’s resignation.
Sharif, who came to power in 2013 in the first democratic transition of power in a country that has witnessed three successful coups since it gained independence from British rule in 1947, has termed the demands as “unacceptable” and “unconstitutional.” Sharif's government has been accused of rigging the elections that brought him to power, and of corruption and nepotism.
Negotiations between the opposition and the Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, government have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.
Following the collapse of talks on Saturday, Khan and Qadri asked their supporters to push through police lines into the capital’s “red zone” -- a high-security area that includes the parliament building, the prime minister’s residence and the country's supreme court.
Qadri, addressing the protesters on Monday, blamed the government for the failure of the talks and accused it of violating the “constitution, law and democracy,” Dawn News reported.