Central & South Asia

Khan urges march on Pakistan PM's stronghold

Opposition leader Imran Khan says he will lead march on Islamabad "red zone" to demand resignation of PM Nawaz Sharif.

Last updated: 18 Aug 2014 20:15
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Khan has called for a campaign of civil disobedience [AP]

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan has promised to lead anti-government demonstrations into the capital's heavily protected "red zone", hours after his party announced it was quitting parliament.

Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, the third largest in Pakistan, announced on Monday it was to renounce its seats in the national assembly and some regional governments, alleging Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had rigged an election which brought him to power last year.

I will lead you and you will follow me ... I am inviting all families ... there will be women and children with us.

Imran Khan, opposition leader

Khan later told Al Jazeera that he and his supporters were determined to march into the "red zone" in Islamabad on Tuesday, which houses the supreme courtparliament house and prime ministerial and presidential offices, to demand Sharif's resignation.

He said the march would take place at any cost and would cross all security barriers - even if it cost lives. He added that the Sharif government would be responsible for any bloodshed.

"I will lead you and you will follow me," he told thousands of supporters at a protest rally in the capital of Islamabad on Monday. "I am inviting all families ... there will be women and children with us."

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the capital, said that Khan's actions presented a real threat to Sharif's government.

"The next 48 hours may see dramatic developments, including the resignation of the prime minister, after Khan called on the minorities including Hindus, Christians to join him on the final march towards parliament," he said.

In addition to Khan's supporters, influential religious leader and opposition politician Tahir ul-Qadri has brought his followers to Islamabad and has given Sharif, who he says is corrupt, until Tuesday to resign.

Call for civil disobedience

On Saturday, Khan and Qadri led thousands of supporters on a "long march" to the capital from the eastern city of Lahore, hoping to mobilise a mass movement to overthrow Sharif.

However, Khan's protest failed to attract the million-strong march he had promised and other opposition parties on Monday shunned his call for a campaign of civil disobedience, leaving him looking increasingly isolated.

The government has repeatedly said his supporters are free to demonstrate peacefully but warned them off entering the “red zone”.

The area has been sealed off with shipping containers and barbed wire, and is guarded by thousands of riot police and soldiers.

Any attempt by protesters to force their way in could lead to a violent confrontation. Police estimated that there were about 55,000 protesters at demonstrations on Sunday.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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