ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan urged Pakistanis on Sunday not to pay taxes or utility bills as a protest against the government and vowed to force the “corrupt” prime minister to step down this week.
“After two days ... your time is up,” Imran shouted to thousands of supporters at a rally in central Islamabad. Police estimated on Sunday that around 55,000 people have occupied two streets in the centre of the capital as part of separate protests led by Imran and cleric Tahirul Qadri. Both men say they will stay in the streets until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom they condemn as corrupt, resigns. Qadri gave him a 48-hour ultimatum on Saturday night. Imran did not repeat a call for protesters to march on parliament, saying he did not want to provoke violence.
“We will go for civil disobedience and will not pay taxes or utility bills till the time Nawaz Sharif resigns,” he said. Imran alternated between urging his supporters to protest peacefully and warning authorities he might not be able to control them. “After two days I will tell (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif that I will not be able hold the people back,” Imran said. He said on Saturday that he was struggling to hold his supporters back from marching on the “Red Zone”, an enclave that is home to top government buildings like parliament and the Supreme Court and most Western embassies.
Many of the young men at Imran’s protest said they were eager to push against the fortified lines of riot police if Imran commanded. “I told my parents, if I am martyred, pray for me,” said student Muhammad Qasim, 21, his goatee painted in the red and green colours of Imran’s party. Riot police wearing body armour and carrying tear gas stacked shipping containers on top of each other and covered them with oil to prevent people climbing them behind the stage where Khan spoke.
Information Minister Pervez Rashid told a private television station the government would not permit protesters to overrun government offices or the Red Zone. “If they go to the Red Zone, will the world see it?” Rashid asked. “This is our internal issue, but if they go into the Red Zone, the issue will be heard in capitals across the world via their embassies. And there will be alarm bells in the capitals, signalling that Pakistan has turned into a insecure country.”
Terming the civil disobedience movement announcement as a hall of his 18-year-long political career, Imran told a charged crowd at the sit-in venue that any attempt from the government side to strike a “deal” would be wastage of time as the nation has rejected the present PML-N government. He said that after the expiry of the 48-hour deadline PTI’s tsunami would be uncontrollable and would take its own course towards the PM House and parliament.
Imran Khan termed parliament, prime minister and the government fraudulent and said it was formed through “poll rigging and match fixing.” Imran Khan repeatedly requested PM Nawaz to tender his resignation “and avoid the wrath of the masses” and prevent the country from falling into political chaos. He said democracy is the solution of problems faced by the country and any extra-constitutional act would take back the country to the path of darkness.
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