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Pakistan braces for more protests, Imran Khan to march on Parliament

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 - 4:30pm IST | Place: ISLAMABAD | Agency: PTI

Pakistan was on the edge on Tuesday after opposition leader Imran Khan called on his supporters to march on the heavily-guarded 'Red Zone' in the capital and cleric Tahir-ul Qadri said he will set up an alternative Parliament to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign and hold fresh elections.

"Today InshaAllah r peaceful non-violent Azadi March will move on 2 Constitution Ave.I will lead the March myself. Defining moment 4 Pakistan," Khan tweeted.

"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.

The government has so far forbidden protesters from breaching the Red Zone housing key state buildings like Supreme Court of Pakistan, Parliament House, the President and the Prime Minister's residences and other important buildings including embassies of various countries.

Khan accuses Sharif's PML-N party of vote-rigging in the 2013 election and has called on him to stand down. Sharif's party won that election by a landslide in what was Pakistan's first peaceful transfer of power between two civilian democratic governments.

In the 2013 polls, Sharif's PML-N had won 190 out of 342 seats. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) got 34 seats in the 342-member National Assembly, the third largest bloc in the legislature.

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 protest the sensitive areas.

Khan's party yesterday decided to withdraw its lawmakers from the National Assembly and all provincial assemblies except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,

There are fears that any attempt by marchers to breach the Red Zone could lead to confrontation.

Khan has been demonstrating along with thousands of his supporters in the capital since Friday to demand the government's resignation. Thousands of anti-government protesters are occupying two Islamabad highways.

Meanwhile, Qadri also announced that he will set up 'Awami Parliament' (People's Parliament) today and refused to meet the PML-N government-appointed committee of lawmakers to hold talks with him. 

"We will set up a new Awami Parliament here at 5.00 pm," Qadri told his supporters at Aabpara square in Islamabad past midnight at the end of a 48-hour deadline given by him to Sharif to quit. 

Qadri did not spell out the criteria for constituting the Awami Parliament but said its decisions will be respected. "The Awami Parliament will decide the future course of action and the destiny of the nation is going to change," he said.

Qadri has already declared the existing parliament a sham as it consisted of "tainted" lawmakers who came to power through "rigged elections".

The government has accused the protesters of attempting to derail democracy yet have also offered talks on their concerns, but these have been rejected.

The Express Tribune newspaper said that Sharif has decided to allow protesters to enter the Red Zone but not the most sensitive areas. The report also said the Sharif had made it clear that force was not to be used against the protesters.

Other opposition figures have criticised the demonstrations and Khan's call for people to stop paying tax bills in protest at the government. 




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