Pakistani Islamists Converge On Islamabad, Urge PM To Resign
By RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal November 01, 2019
Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters have gathered in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, calling for Prime Minister Imran Khan's resignation over economic hardships.
"I'm giving a two-day deadline for the resignation," Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, told the rally on November 1.
"Don't test our patience," Rehman said, without saying what would happen after the expiration of the two-day deadline.
In a veiled reference to Pakistan's army, he called on the country's "establishment" not to support Khan's government.
Rehman was joined by leaders of Pakistan's main political parties in anti-government speeches, as Khan remained defiant, accusing his opponents of using religion against his government.
"They have disjointed thoughts and don't have any agenda," he told a rally in northern Pakistan.
The opposition claim the prime minister is incompetent and his government was illegitimately installed by Pakistan's military after a rigged general election in 2018. The army denies meddling in politics.
Rehman brought his supporters on a five-day journey, dubbed the Azadi (Freedom) March -- to Islamabad from the southern city of Karachi.
Demonstrators traveled on buses, bikes, and in private cars to gather in the capital by late evening on October 31 for the anti-government protest.
Authorities have deployed police and paramilitary forces and placed shipping containers on key roads in the capital to prevent the massive march from reaching the Red Zone, where government offices, parliament, and foreign embassies are located.
Mobile phone and Internet signals have been reportedly blocked within a 3-kilometer radius around the area where the rally is taking place.
Highways leading into Islamabad that are usually clogged by traffic were deserted on the morning of November 1.
All schools were closed in the capital and in the nearby city of Rawalpindi on November 1.
Before the start of the march, the ruling party and opposition parties reached an agreement to allow the anti-government march as long as they protesters do not cross the Red Zone.
Khan came to power last year promising to end corruption, help middle-class families, and get the country's faltering economy on track.
But his government was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion bailout in July.
The military has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence since the country's independence from Britain in 1947.
No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term in office in 70 years.
With reporting by AP, geo.tv, Reuters, and Dawn
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|