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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (2)
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.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid