News / Asia

Pakistan Opposition Leader Calls for Tax Boycott in Anti-government Protest

Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan (C) waves while addressing supporters in Islamabad August 17, 2014.Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan (C) waves while addressing supporters in Islamabad August 17, 2014.
Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan (C) waves while addressing supporters in Islamabad August 17, 2014.
Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan (C) waves while addressing supporters in Islamabad August 17, 2014.

Leading opposition politician Imran Khan urged Pakistanis on Sunday not to pay taxes or utility bills as a protest against the government and vowed to force the country's “corrupt” prime minister to step down this week.

“After two days ... your time is up,” Khan shouted to thousands of supporters at a rally in central Islamabad.

Police estimated on Sunday that around 55,000 people occupied two streets in the center of the Pakistani capital as part of separate protests led by Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri.

Both men say they will stay in the streets until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom they condemn as corrupt, resigns. Qadri gave him a 48-hour ultimatum on Saturday night.

Sharif's landslide election win marked the first democratic transfer of power in the history of the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people. But barely a year after taking power, he has struggled to overcome daily power cuts, a sluggish economy and a Taliban insurgency. Anti-Western militant groups have been growing in strength, worrying Pakistan's allies.

Khan, a former international cricket star, did not repeat a call for protesters to march on parliament, saying he did not want to provoke violence.

“We will go for civil disobedience and will not pay taxes or utility bills till the time Nawaz Sharif resigns,” he said.

Less than one percent of Pakistanis pay income tax, and the last time Pakistan prosecuted someone for income tax evasion was more than 25 years ago.

Khan alternated between urging his supporters to protest peacefully and warning authorities he might not be able to control them.

“After two days I will tell [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif that I will not be able hold the people back,” Khan said.

Khan said on Saturday that he was struggling to hold his supporters back from marching on the “Red Zone,” an enclave that is home to top government buildings like Parliament and the Supreme Court and most Western embassies.

Many of the young men at Khan's protest said they were eager to push against the fortified lines of riot police if Khan commanded.

“I told my parents, if I am martyred, pray for me,” said student Muhammed Qasim, 21, his goatee painted in the red and green colors of Khan's party.

Riot police wearing body armor and carrying tear gas stacked shipping containers on top of each other and covered them with oil to prevent people from climbing them behind the stage where Khan spoke.

‘Insecure country’

The country's information minister, Pervez Rashid, told local television station Geo the government would not permit protesters to overrun government offices or the Red Zone.

“If they go to the Red Zone, will the world see it?” Rashid asked. “This is our internal issue, but if they go into the Red Zone, the issue will be heard in capitals across the world via their embassies. And there will be alarm bells in the capitals, signaling that Pakistan has turned into an insecure country.”

Sharif's relationship with the powerful military has been poor, leading some in his government to suggest elements in the military are directing the protests to weaken the government and discourage policies it disapproves of.

Those include the prosecution for treason of former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew Sharif in a coup in 1999, ushering in a decade of military rule.

Despite Pakistan's history of coups, few feel the military wants to oust Sharif, however. The Supreme Court issued a warning on Friday against “unconstitutional” action.

Some analysts say the unrest has erupted because the opposition senses Sharif is vulnerable, not only over his rocky relations with the military, but also because of dithering over peace talks with the Taliban and failure to fill key ministries more than a year after taking office.

Qadri and Khan both arrived in Islamabad late on Friday after a two-day procession of tens of thousands of people through Punjab province, heartland of support for Sharif. Their protests have remained separate because the two have different supporters and plans for what should happen if Sharif steps down.

Qadri's supporters have set up camp on the capital's main thoroughfare, Jinnah Avenue, forcing many businesses to close. Khan's protest is on an adjacent street, in the area of Aabpara Chowk.

“We are giving 48 hours for the government to resign and dissolve the assemblies and present themselves before the law,” Qadri said Saturday night.

“Otherwise the people will decide and I will not be responsible.”

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
August 17, 2014 10:50 PM
What is the efficiency of Imran Khan Govt in one province of Pakistan. What he did for Safety & Security of common peoples, capture any killer and give him punishment, Improve Business climate, Open any new School, College or University, open any clinic or Hospital, All are Big Nil. Imran Khan gave Jamat Islami Members as Seniour Minister without any Portfolio. What is this, this is Bribe to Jamat Islami as to give support to Imran Khan in assembly. Jamat Islami called it self as religious party but feel pleasure in acceptance Bribe. Imran Khan cannot select a wife and cannot live with wife. How He can serve as PM of Pakistan when his Govt performance is Nil. He has choice to choose any body as second wife, but girls knows very well he is completely Un Balance man.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs