Unrest in Pakistan drives protesters to take over state TV network

The recent unrest in Pakistan escalated Monday as anti-government protesters stormed the headquarters of the state broadcasting facilities, temporarily taking it off the air. The protesters -- thousands of whom have been on the streets of Islamabad for weeks -- are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Jonathan Sparks of Independent Television News reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The recent unrest in Pakistan escalated again today, as protesters temporarily took control of state broadcasting facilities.

    We have a report narrated by Jonathan Sparks of Independent Television News.

  • JOHN SPARKS:

    The battle raged on Constitutional Avenue today, police and protesters moving back and forth, seizing ground in Pakistan's capital, then ceding it.

    Here, the police take flight, pursued by thousands of demonstrators carrying sticks and stones and slingshots. The trouble broke out on Saturday when they tried to storm the residence of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. He's accused of electoral fraud, and the protesters want him out, a sense of crisis amplified by Pakistan's energetic news channels.

    And one station found itself in the firing line today. The state broadcaster, Pakistan TV, was overrun by 300-odd protesters. They marched into the transmission room and cut the wires, taking two channels off the air.

  • MAN:

    Protesters have managed to barge their way into PTV headquarters, and they have even made their way into some of the newsrooms, and they're armed with sticks and batons. And the important thing is that we remain calm right now. There's no reason to panic at this stage.

  • JOHN SPARKS:

    The situation was diffused by the army, a sign of their strength. Soldiers walked into the station and asked the protesters to go.

    This afternoon, the leaders of the protests tried to distance themselves from the raid. Former cricketer Imran Khan said he was sorry if any of his followers were involved, while the cleric Tahir-ul Qadri assured the nation it had nothing to do with him.

    Both men command thousands of supporters, but that's not enough to sweep the government from power. They need the military's help to force Nawaz Sharif to resign. The country's all-powerful army chief, Raheel Sharif, has sounded diplomatic so far, but relations with the prime minister, who he met with this afternoon, are thought to be tense, the army unhappy with a number of government policies. They don't want closer relations with India or the prosecution of former Army Chief Pervez Musharraf.

    And as the crisis continues, they may exact a heavy price.