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.

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

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs