Over 25,000 supporters of Opposition leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri vowing not to back down till Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns and dissolves Parliament and provincial assemblies, poured into the streets of Pakistan's capital, posing the biggest challenge to the 15-month-old civilian government. Unfazed by the country's apex court's order against any unconstitutional step to topple the government, the two Opposition groups held separate sit-ins, demanding Sharif's resignation and fresh polls alleging rigging during the last year's elections.
"The time has arrived when the nation should decide. I will stay here until the Prime Minister resigns. We don't accept a Prime Minister who has been appointed after rigged elections," Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) told his supporters after arriving here in a convoy, travelling over 300 km from Lahore for his 'Azadi March'. "We went to the election commission and the Supreme Court against the rigging in the elections. When we could not get justice, then we decided that there is no other way but to come on roads to get justice," Khan, who is suffering from high fever, said.
In the 2013 general elections, Sharif had won by a landslide, taking 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature. But he claimed his party should have had many more seats. Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) camping in an adjacent street was addressed by the Canada-based cleric, who demanded the arrest of Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over the killing of 14 of his supporters in a clash with police in Lahore on June 17.
"I will not leave until Nawaz, Shahbaz are arrested," Qadri said. He said that a case is being registered against Sharif and Shahbaz over the Model Town incident. "Now it is up to police to either follow the due process and register an FIR or suffer the consequences," he said. In his seven-point charter of demands, the cleric also called for the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies. He also demanded formation of a national government which works on the project of thorough democratic reforms in the country.