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Siege mentality grips Pakistan ahead of Independence Day

Published on Aug 13, 2014 8:11 PM

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - Thousands of riot police sealed off Pakistan's capital with barbed wire and shipping containers on the eve of the country's Independence Day, in a bid to foil mass protests aimed at toppling embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Two groups, led by cricket star turned opposition politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, plan to converge on Islamabad on Thursday intent on forcing Mr Sharif to call an early election little more than a year after his landslide victory at the polls.

Police said on Wednesday that they had detained some 2,100 followers of the two populist opposition figures in the past few days, and with all the obstacles in their path it was uncertain how many protesters would reach the capital.

The latest challenge to Pakistan's fragile democracy will inevitably sow unease among neighbours and allies. They dread instability in the nuclear-armed state, which is battling an internal Islamist insurgency and is home to several virulently anti-Western and anti-Indian militant groups.

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