News / Asia

Anti-Government Protesters March to Islamabad's 'Red Zone'

Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan delivers a speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 18, 2014.
Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan delivers a speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 18, 2014.
Ayaz Gul

Political tensions are set to come to a head in Pakistan, where an opposition politician says his party's lawmakers will resign from parliament and he will lead thousands of protesters into the capital’s heavily fortified “Red Zone,” despite stern government warnings.

Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan has been leading an anti-government rally in the Pakistani capital, in a bid to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down over alleged vote fraud.

The protesters are mostly activists of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, parliament’s third-largest political bloc. They are camping out near a so-called high-security “Red Zone” in Islamabad that houses diplomatic missions, parliament, the prime minister and president, and government offices.

Their anti-government rally has been mostly peaceful since it began four days ago. However, in an attempt to intensify pressure on the government, Khan told an emotionally charged crowd Monday night that his party has decided to resign from the national parliament and three provincial legislatures.

"These fake parliaments are not acceptable to my party because they are the outcome of rigged elections. We also reject 'the fake prime minister,'" said Khan.  

The opposition politician also said he also decided to march toward the Red Zone Tuesday evening. He called on his supporters to follow him, and he warned security forces not to open fire on what he promised will be a peaceful and historic rally.

Authorities have deployed up to 30,000 security personnel and placed shipping containers to block access to the Red Zone.  

The government has ruled out any possibility of Prime Minister Sharif stepping down, criticizing the demand as unconstitutional.

Ruling party lawmaker Marvi Memon says the government has set up two special committees to initiate talks with Khan's party on his demands within constitutional limits. But she says the government is determined not to allow anyone to enter the Red Zone.   

“Peaceful or not peaceful, the demonstrations and protesters should not enter [the Red Zone]. Breaching the Red Zone will have serious consequences. We hope that he will agree to negotiations and not challenge the writ of the state," said Memon.

Memon sounded confident that “better sense” will prevail and Khan will seek a negotiated settlement of the issues related to the allegations of election fraud.
There are fears that any attempt by protesters to force their way into the Red Zone could trigger a violent confrontation with security forces.

Khan had promised to bring a million people to his anti-government rally, but the number so far has been far below his claims.

On Sunday, he surprised many in Pakistan by calling on his supporters across Pakistan to begin a so-called “civil disobedience movement” by not paying taxes and utility bills to what he alleged is a corrupt government.

The controversial announcement has led to severe media criticism of Khan. Lawmaker Marvi described it as an act of frustration.

“I would consider it frankly ludicrous per se, anti-democratic, illegal and definitely a desperate act, an act of frustration, and the reason is because the numbers that he was expecting did not come in," he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of followers of an anti-government cleric, Tahir-ul-Qadri, also are staging a “sit-in” protest not far from where Khan’s rally is located.
The Muslim cleric runs a network of Islamic schools and mosques in Pakistan and has been seeking justice for more than a dozen of his followers killed in a police crackdown in June.

Qadri also wants Prime Minister Sharif to step down, but the largely controversial cleric's critics say he is unlikely to pose any serious challenge for the government.

 

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: julia from: cali
August 20, 2014 3:44 PM
can someone please tell me that these protesters are not going door to door killing people. i need more info on this please :(

is it in any way violent?
In Response

by: LA from: NY
August 22, 2014 4:27 PM
100% INNOCENT protests, to get the president to resign. There is no violence yet, from either side.

However, the public is tired of corruption amongst government and want the PM to resign so they can elect someone worthy of presidency.

I am all for a peaceful beautiful revolution in Pakistan, with an honest president who doesnt work hand in hand with the USA.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs