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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More