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Pakistan military denies reports of possible PM resignation

By Saima Mohsin, Adeel Raja and Ralph Ellis, CNN
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Source: Prime Minister meets with military leaders about temporarily stepping down
  • Protesters penetrate area housing the Prime Minister's residence in Islamabad
  • Pakistan military calls reports of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepping down "baseless"
  • At least three people have died and 450 have been hurt in protests, medical authorities say

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- With protests raging in the streets of Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with military leaders Monday to discuss the option of resigning for three months, a government official with direct knowledge told CNN.

Discussions also included the creation of a judicial commission to investigate the elections that led to Sharif's party taking power, said the source, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

But the website for the Inter Services Public Relations, the military's publicity wing, said reports of the meeting and the possibility of Sharif resigning are "totally baseless."

Thousands of protesters demanding Sharif's resignation have battled police and soldiers in the street for weeks. Three people have died and 450 have been injured, Pakistani medical authorities have said.

Pakistani military regain control of PTV
Police, protesters battle in Pakistan

Sharif has vowed to remain on the job in spite the violent demonstrations. The protesters accuse him of rigging last year's elections that allowed his party -- the Pakistani Muslim League Nawaz -- to take power.

On Monday, the Pakistani military was called in to protect the state-run television station from protesters. The station went off the air for a brief period but returned to broadcasting.

The soldiers were called in after protesters pushed past police and penetrated into the Red Zone, the area housing the Prime Minister's official residence and other government buildings.

The demonstrators were armed with sticks and shields and threw rocks, while riot police fought back with tear gas.

Some protesters carried chains and handcuffs to show they want Sharif taken away in handcuffs.

Clashes with police broke out again around 5 p.m. (8 a.m. ET). Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators as they approached residential areas.

On Sunday, local news crews, including cameramen from three channels, were attacked by police trying to disperse protesters.

Thousands of supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan have protested. They've been joined by followers of cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has accused Sharif of corruption and campaigned for more to be done for the country's poor.

Sharif is on his third stint as Prime Minister in Pakistan.

Interventions by the military ended Sharif's term as Prime Minister in 1999 when Pervez Musharraf, the head of the army at the time, overthrew him.

In a dramatic fall from grace, Sharif ended up in jail, convicted of hijacking charges for trying to stop a plane with Musharraf from landing. He then went into exile in Saudi Arabia and didn't return to Pakistan until 2007 when he teamed up with the Pakistani People's Party to force Musharraf from office.

CNN's Saima Mohsin and journalist Adeel Raja reported from Islamabad; CNN's Ralph Ellis wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Brian Walker also contributed to this report.

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