Published: Mon, November 04, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Pakistan steps up security ahead of rally in Islamabad

Pakistan steps up security ahead of rally in Islamabad

Tens of thousands of Islamists rallied alongside opposition supporters in Pakistan's capital Friday, as the firebrand cleric leading the protests called on Prime Minister Imran Khan's government to step down within 48 hours.

The general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl's (JUI-F) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter, Ataul Haq Darvesh, mistakenly urged the Azadi March protesters to chant "Go Nawaz Go" instead of "Go Imran Go".

The party enjoys the backing of Pakistan's moderate and secular opposition parties. "Now, they [the government] should also hear what we are saying", said Mr. Rehman in a pointed message to the establishment. "If we feel that the institutions continue to protect these incompetent and illegal rulers, then we'll be free to form an opinion about that institution", he said.

"Government should resign before we reach Islamabad", he said.

Fazl had given the prime minister a two-day ultimatum to resign.

"This is a peaceful rally and we are peaceful people, therefore we want to stay peaceful otherwise this [crowd] has the strength to go to the prime minister's office and arrest him", Rehman pointed out.

Shahbaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League party, promised in a speech to improve the country's economy within six months if his party comes into power in future after removal of Khan's government.

Senior JUI-F chief Akram Durrani mentioned the rally in Islamabad will now begin after the Friday prayers and senior opposition leaders will handle it.

Fifty-three percent of the population agreed with the government's decision to allow the JUI-F to hold its Azadi March while 41 percent did not agree with it. This is the people's army - Pakistan's Army.

"This government does not have any mandate", he said.

Imran Khan apprised that the government has launched various initiatives aimed at welfare of the youth, poverty alleviation and housing sectors that will ultimately result in economic development.

Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities have made elaborate security arrangements to control the sea of protesters.

The government has, however, banned cellular signals in the areas where the protest has been staged.

Security is tight in Islamabad with the government and diplomatic sector - just a few kilometres from the rally - sealed off, with shipping containers used to block roads. Police sources said the law enforcement personnel deployed at the venue have been strictly directed to behave politely with the marchers.

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