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Central & South Asia

Pakistan set for 'decisive' day of protests

Cleric Tahir ul-Qadri declares "deciding day" in bid to topple prime minister as tens of thousands gather in Islamabad.

Last updated: 28 Aug 2014 09:46
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Islamabad is bracing for huge protests as talks between the government and opposition broke down [Al Jazeera]

Tens of thousands of protesters are preparing to convene in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, in the "deciding day" of a bid to bring down Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after discussions between opposition groups and the government ended without agreement.

Anti-government cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who has a huge following and runs a network of Islamic schools and hospitals, told his supporters on Thursday he had "shut the door" on further talks and urged them to prepare for a decisive day in their campaign against Sharif.

"Thursday will be Revolution Day," he told a roaring crowd. "We will not go forward from tomorrow as it will be the deciding day."

Opposition politician Imran Khan has also promised an important statement on Thursday.

Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has called on the embattled PM to step down, accusing him of rigging last year's election which he won by a landslide vote, taking 190 of the 342 seats in the national assembly.

In a bid to resolve the standoff, government representatives held sporadic talks with protest leaders, but the latest round of negotiations ended inconclusively.

The two protest leaders met seperately with Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, a military spokesman confirmed.

Khan told Sharif that no investigation in to alleged vote rigging could take place what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in power.

"Without his resignation, no investigation can be independent," the PTI leader said.

Both Qadri and Khan have made dramatic statements about their intentions since the start of the protests on August 15, with several ultimatums passing without action and Sharif rejecting their calls for his resignation.

Qadri and his Pakistan Awami Tehreek party want Sharif to step aside because of corruption.

Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N party have dismissed the allegations and accused the protesters of undermining the country's fragile democracy.

Heightened security

The protests in Islamabad have so far been largely peaceful, with security forces deployed in huge numbers in the capital, taking a hands-off approach to the demonstrations.

But on Thursday, security was visibly increased in the centre of the capital.

In a show of defiance, some protesters dug graves in the capital's Constitution Avenue to show they are prepared to die for their cause.

Thousands have camped outside parliament determined to stay on despite the heat and occasional monsoon downpours.

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Source:
Agencies
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