Pakistan opposition sets out march towards Islamabad

KARACHI, Pakistan

Thousands of anti-government protesters are marching towards capital Islamabad, seeking resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan over alleged election rigging and weak economy.

The marchers, mainly belonging to Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party — one of the country’s main religious parties — led by former opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman set out the final leg of their “Azadi (Freedom) March” from Lahore to the capital on Tuesday.

Chanting anti-government slogans and waving Pakistani and party flags, the protesters riding on hundreds of buses, cars and motorbikes, are expected to reach the capital on Thursday.

Key opposition parties — center-right Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif and center-left Pakistan People’s party (PPP) of slain premier Benazir Bhutto — are also supporting the march. However, their participation in the march is merely ceremonial.

“Our demands are very clear. The prime minister should step down to pave the way for fresh general elections without interference from any institution,” Qari Usman, a key leader of the JUI, who is also participating in the march, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

Though, the government and the opposition parties have agreed on a code of conduct for a “peaceful” march, political analysts, however, foresee a showdown between the security forces and the marchers in the capital.

“We will not come back without prime minister’s resignation,” Usman said, adding: “We cannot say how long we sit there (in Islamabad). We will announce our next strategy in consultation with other opposition parties in Islamabad.”

Premier Khan has already warned of a strict action if the marchers do not abide by the agreement with the government.


Earlier addressing the protesters before setting off the march, the JUI chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman charged the government with its alleged failure on economic, political and diplomatic fronts calling on premier to voluntarily step down.

Authorities, for their part, have placed thousands of shipping containers on the roads to block the entry of protesters to the capital.

Shipping firms have accused authorities in the northeastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of forcibly seizing containers to put them on the roads to block protesters from reaching the capital.

The marchers’ leader warned that if the government blocked their routes to the capital, it could trigger clashes.

The government had formed a negotiation team led by Defense Minister Pervez Khattak to talk with opposition parties to call off their protest.

On Friday, the government team met with opposition party leaders in Islamabad, but they failed to reach any agreement.

Almost all the political parties have used long march as a tactic to pressure or topple the governments in the past.

In 2014, premier Khan — the then opposition leader — besieged the parliament for 126 days seeking resignation of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over alleged electoral fraud.

Sharif, however, had refused to budge and Khan’s claim of electoral fraud had also been dismissed by the Supreme Court later.
Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.

AdvertisementThe new Emirates Premium Economy has arrived on the latest Emirates A380 Emirates Get the best value from your summer holiday with exclusive offers and discounts across Dubai and the UAE with Emirates Pass

What do you think?