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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs