Police in Islamabad are locked in a stand-off with a man armed with two automatic guns who was randomly firing in the air in the Pakistani capital Thursday.

The gunman, who had been travelling in a car with a woman and two young children, was stopped for a traffic violation, police said.

He then began to fire into the air in the busy commercial Jinnah Avenue neighbourhood -- which is a high-security area as the road leads to the presidency and parliament house.

An AFP photographer at the scene said the man in his 50s was holding a submachine gun and a Kalashnikov in each hand and officers were negotiating with both him and the woman, reported to be his wife, to convince the gunman to lay down his weapons.

State-run Pakistan television PTV said the man, identified as Sikandar from central Punjab province, had refused to put down the weapons even after a senior police officer talked to the him several times.

The stand-off, which began at 5.30pm (1230 GMT) was still continuing more than five hours later with the man, woman and children sitting in the car.

The area has been evacuated with markets and shops shut down, and the road where the black Toyota Corolla car is parked has been blocked by police, who have surrounded the gunman.

Police said the motives of the man were unknown but he is demanding a safe passage and protection for his family.

The drama is being broadcast live by at least three Pakistani private television channels, with TV anchors questioning how police and other law enforcement agencies failed to check an armed man who drove into an area less than a kilometre from the presidency and parliament house.

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