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Pakistani opposition leader halts talks with government as parliament besieged

Supporters of chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party Imran Khan, a former international cricketer, cheer while listening to him speak during what has been dubbed a "freedom march" in Islamabad August 20, 2014.

FAISAL MAHMOOD/REUTERS

Pakistan's famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan says he has suspended talks with the government after it appointed a new police chief in the capital Islamabad for an expected crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Thousands of Khan's supporters are besieging parliament for a second day Thursday to press Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud.

Protesters led by Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul Qadri, who normally lives in Canada, tore down barricades late Tuesday and entered the so-called Red Zone that houses key government buildings.

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Their representatives held talks with the government early Thursday after Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Rasheel Sharif, requested that Sharif's government negotiate with the protesters.

The protests have raised tensions in the nuclear-armed U.S. ally, which has a long history of political turmoil and military dictatorships.

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