News / Asia

Pakistan Military Guards Parliament, Readies for Mass Rally

Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan shout slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 19, 2014.
Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan shout slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 19, 2014.
Reuters

Thousands of Pakistani riot police took up positions to defend a diplomatic and political zone of the capital on Tuesday after an opposition leader and cleric vowed to march on parliament to oust the prime minister.

Upping the stakes, the interior minister also announced that soldiers would be deployed to stop the protesters.

The announcement was intended to send a message to the coup-prone country that the protests do not have military backing.

It also underscored how the domestic opposition has forced the fledgling civilian government to rely on the country's powerful army, despite deep mistrust between the two institutions.

The protests have piled extra pressure on the 15-month-old government as it struggles to overcome high unemployment, daily power cuts and a Taliban insurgency. The showdown has also raised questions over the stability of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.

Protest leaders

The protests are led by former international cricketer Imran Khan, head of the country's third-largest political party, and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who controls a network of Islamic schools and charities.

Khan accuses Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of rigging last year's polls. Qadri accuses Sharif of corruption. Both want Sharif to resign.

Police estimate the two protest leaders have around 55,000 supporters between them.

Both Khan and Qadri have been holding protest rallies in the capital since Friday with government permission. But they have been banned from the “Red Zone,” which houses many Western embassies, parliament and the office and home of Sharif.

Their protests have so far remained separate because the two have different supporters and plans for what should happen if Sharif steps down.

Peaceful protest

But on Tuesday, Qadri said his supporters would march on parliament, a day after Khan asked his supporters to do the same.

“The people's parliament ... have decided to do their sit in in front of parliament,” Qadri announced on Tuesday evening, referring to his protesters, to approving roars from the crowd.

Most of Khan's supporters are young men. Qadri's supporters are seen as more disciplined and determined; there are many families among them. All the men have sticks; brigades of fluorescent youths also have goggles and masks to deal with teargas.

The Red Zone is sealed off with shipping containers and barbed wire and flooded with riot police and paramilitaries.

At Khan's rally, 20-year-old Shams Khan, who came from the northwestern region of Bannu with his friends, said the threat of violence would not deter him.

“My blood is boiling today and I want to be martyred,” he said. “If we don't go into the Red Zone today, I will quit this party tomorrow.”

Army to secure zone

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar announced the military would co-ordinate the defense of the Red Zone.

“The government has decided to handover the security of the Red Zone of Islamabad to the army,” he said in a news conference. “The enforcement on this will start in next two, three hours.”

Three tiers of security had been put in place, he said, using police and government paramilitary forces.

“This challenge to the writ of the state will not be acceptable under any circumstances,” Marvi Memon, a legislator from Sharif's party, told a news conference.

“By entering the Red Zone, what are you trying to prove?” she asked. “You cannot just go and sit on his chair and become prime minister.”

Pull out of parliament

On Monday Khan also announced his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), would resign from their 34 seats in the National Assembly and in all provinces apart from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which his party controls.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan, is the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

Memon said no formal resignations had been received so far.

Some analysts say Khan and Qadri mounted their challenge because Sharif's relationship with the military had deteriorated, appearing to leave the civilian government isolated.

Sharif angered the military by delaying an anti-Taliban operation by insisting on months of fruitless peace talks and putting the former chief of staff, Pervez Musharraf, on trial for treason. Musharraf ousted Sharif during a coup in 1999.

Many officers are also suspicious of Sharif's strategy to improve relations with archenemy India. However, over the past weeks, Musharraf's trial has ground to a halt and talks with India have been canceled.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
August 19, 2014 11:07 PM
This is sad situation in Pakistan. This is not possible in democracy to kick out PM by Mr. Qadri who have no seat in any parliament. First of all he should fight in election, if public choose him then he can go for reforms. Other wise this will create more and more problems for common Pakistani. Federal Govt will spent or waste time to control this type of activities. So how new investments and fresh air will come under these circumstances. Imran khan first all improve him self in his provincial govt. He did not bring any change or improvement of daily life. He did not even catch a single human killer, thief and looter.
In Response

by: Juanid Khan from: karachi
August 26, 2014 8:12 AM
Imran khan is the heart beat of most of the youngsters. youngsters follow IK in every situation, Pak gov will disable after this march and the latest news is IK is going to publish all of the prove of election ragging.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs