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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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.
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