Intensifying his agitation for the ouster of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, opposition leader Imran Khan on Tuesday night marched with thousands of his supporters towards the heavily fortified 'Red Zone', a key diplomatic and political enclave here, raising fears of clashes with the army and other security forces.
Khan and Canada-based firebrand cleric Tahirul Qadri have been protesting for the last six days demanding Prime Minister Sharif's resignation, putting the PML-N-led government on the backfoot. "Promise me, if something were to happen to me, you will take revenge from Nawaz Sharif," Khan said while addressing his supporters before starting his march towards the Red Zone that houses important government buildings including the Parliament House, Prime Minister House, President House, the Supreme Court besides embassies of various countries.
Army contingents had taken positions in the Red Zone with the 111 Brigade -- often been used to secure Islamabad as well as used in military takeovers -- deployed in the area.
Fearing any untoward incident taking place if the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) or the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) enter the Red Zone, Lieutenant General Qamar Bajwa, Commander 10 Corps, contacted top officials of the Islamabad Police for coordination to ensure security of key government installations located on Constitution Avenue.
The PTI chief strictly prohibited the protesters from entering into or occupying any building located in the Diplomatic Enclave including the Parliament House. "We will only march peacefully towards the 'illegal' Parliament House and stage a sit-in in front of it. We will convert the Red Zone into the Green Zone," he said.
"Our Azadi March is constitutional & democratic," the cricketer-turned-politician, who spent the night in a shipping container at the site of the sit-in, said.
Qadri also started his march towards the sensitive Red Zone. He announced in the evening that he will breach the high security zone.
The government has so far forbidden protesters from breaching the Red Zone.
Khan is protesting the alleged vote rigging in last year's polls. In the polls, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's PTI got 34 seats, the third largest bloc in the legislature. There are fears that any attempt by marchers to the Red Zone could lead to confrontation.
Security has been tightened in the area after Khan called on marchers to enter it to stage a peaceful protest in the 'fake' (National) assembly and 'fake' Prime Minister House.
More than 40,000 security personnel have been deployed to protect the sensitive areas.