- Thousands of people participate in PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PAT Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri-led Azadi and Inqilab marches against Nawaz Sharif government
- Khan tells supporters in Lahore he won’t leave Islamabad until Sharif resigns from premiership and announces installation of non-political interim govt for holding fresh elections
- Qadri says his followers won’t return until Sharif govt is sent packing
- Govt allows both parties to march after they submitted formal applications
- Nisar says govt won’t tolerate violation of Red Zone security
Thousands of protesters led by cricketer-turned- politician Imran Khan and preacher Allama Dr Tahirul Qadri are likely to enter Islamabad today (Friday), aiming to bring down the government they accuse of stealing last year’s election and for being involved in corrupt and undemocratic practices.
The looming confrontation has renewed the political role of the military, casting some doubt on the strength of democratic institutions in a nuclear-armed nation that has seen several coups and has been ruled by the army for half its history.
Khan’s ‘Azadi’ March began on Thursday evening from Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab and the power base for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The march is being carried out in cars and buses.
Khan’s following was bolstered by Qadri, who is leading thousands of followers in a separate such march, named Inqilab March on the road from Lahore to Islamabad.
Leaderships of both the parties have assured the government that the protests will be peaceful.
The 185-mile journey normally takes about five hours by vehicle, but with the demonstrators inching along, they aren’t likely to reach the capital before Friday morning.
‘NOTHING BUT PM’S RESIGNATION:
“You have to fight for freedom, you have to snatch freedom,” Khan, the chief of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), told a massive gathering of his supporters as his rally made an hour-long stop at Faisal Chowk, in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
“Mian Sahib, I’m coming to Islamabad and I won’t be leaving until you step down from office,” Khan said, addressing Prime Minister Sharif.
The PTI chief told his charged supporters that he won’t settle for anything less than the PM’s resignation, installation of an interim non-political government to hold fresh elections in the country, and dissolution of the incumbent Election Commission of Pakistan.
Khan said that he was setting out to throw Sharif out of power “to pave the way for true democracy as the current system was nothing less than a monarchy”.
The PTI chief told his supporters from Sindh and Balochistan that he had hadn’t been able to make frequent visits their provinces because he was “busy fighting a battle in Punjab”. However, he assured them that he would be spending more time with them “after coming into power once his party sweeps elections across the country”.
The PTI chief also said that his children and relatives won’t be imposed on the people. “I’ve won several fetes for Pakistani cricket and now I’m going to lead this nation to a historic victory over a corrupt system,” he said.
QADRI RESOLVED TO REACH CAPITAL:
Meanwhile, talking to a private news channel, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri said that his followers will march to Islamabad without creating any law and order situation.
“Our demands are clear and the participants of my Inqilab March will not return until the fall of the Sharif govt,” Qadri said from his bullet-proof SUV.
NISAR WARNS AGAINST VIOLATION OF RED ZONE:
In Islamabad, Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference that the government had received formal applications for holding the long marches from both PTI and PAT and they would be granted permission to enter Islamabad in a few hours’ time.
He said that containers placed on major intersections and entry and exit points in Islamabad would be removed only after the PTI and PAT leaderships sign declarations relating to rules for such public gatherings. Nisar said that the government would provide security to the protesters and expects cooperation from the leaderships of the two parties in maintaining law and order.
However, the minister spoke firmly on how the government would not tolerate any intrusion in the Red Zone and warned that state machinery would immediately come into action if the rules were violated.
“We have decided to allow both marches entry into Islamabad and they will be allocated designated spaces for holding their sit-ins but they must keep in mind that no one will be allowed to trespass into restricted areas,” he said.
Nisar said the two rallies were expected to reach the federal capital on Friday morning and life would return to normal for the citizens of Rawalpindi and Islamabad once the parties reach their designated sites.
CHANGE OF HEART:
Ahead of the protests, which coincided with the country’s Independence Day, traditionally a time for national unity and celebration, the Nawaz Sharif government had used shipping containers to seal off roads in both Lahore and Islamabad to hinder the marches, while gasoline has also been in short supply.
However, in a last-minute change of heart, the government said on Thursday that it would allow both protest rallies to travel to Islamabad. At the start of this month, the government had authorized the military to deploy hundreds of soldiers in Islamabad to bolster civilian law enforcement.
Political insiders said the military was playing a mediating role between the protesters and the government. In particular, some politicians have pointed to a meeting on Wednesday between the army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab and the prime minister’s younger brother.
The previous democratically elected government, which was in power between 2008 and 2013, was a weak coalition led by President Asif Zardari, who quickly ceded control of foreign and security policies to the military.
At a ceremony in Ziarat on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif appeared along the army chief, Gen Raheel.
“Can there be a bigger freedom march than Pakistan’s civil and military leadership sitting together to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day?” Sharif said in his speech.
zionist english govt in Islamic Pakistan must go away now! time has come they must leave now! english elits in Islamic Pakistan has commited Crimes towards All Pakistanis most Crimes was Commited towards Muslims & Islam in Pakistan
Mns now warming upto army now he needs them. He should have always given our khakis respect and honour they deserve.
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