ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan called on his supporters to march on a the heavily fortified Red Zone of the capital on Tuesday (today) after his party announced it would resign from national and provincial assemblies except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, to try to force the government to hold new elections.
The moves are part of a high-stakes showdown following four days of protests in the capital led by Imran and cleric Tahirul Qadri. The government has said Imran and Qadri are free to demonstrate peacefully but will not be permitted to enter Islamabad’s Red Zone, which is home to many Western embassies, the Supreme Court and government ministries.
Any attempt by protesters to force their way into the Red Zone could lead to a violent confrontation. The area has been sealed off with shipping containers and barbed wire, and is guarded by thousands of riot police, the army and the paramilitary Rangers. Imran appealed to police not to oppose the march. “I will lead you and you will follow me,” he told thousands of supporters at a rally on Monday in Islamabad. “I am inviting all families ... there will be women and children with us.”
Broadening the action, Imran PTI said on Monday it would resign form the National Assembly, where it is the third largest party with 34 out of 342 seats. PTI will also withdraw from two out of four provincial assemblies, senior party official Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. It has no seats in the third province and Imran’s party rules Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Officials there will not resign, he said. Qureshi said the party was just waiting for three more lawmakers to hand their resignations to him and then he would deliver them to parliament as a group.
Qureshi said he hoped the resignations would force Nawaz Sharif to step down, but so far there have been no indications that the pressure tactics are working. Some commentators think Imran is running out of ideas after his march attracted fewer followers than he hoped and a call for civil disobedience met widespread ridicule. Imran told supporters not to pay tax or electricity bills. But only 0.5 percent of Pakistanis pay income tax and the powerful also refuse to pay for utilities, worsening deeply entrenched economic problems.
Imran Khan said that PTI want real democracy in the country and invited Pakistanis from all walks of life to participate in the “decisive final march to topple the corrupt rulers and overhaul the system”. Imran said that civil disobedience is the best weapon for achieving real independence from autocratic rulers and the system they have devised for themselves. “I promise civil disobedience will bring Sharif brothers to their knees and you all will see it,” he said amid applause from the crowd.
He reiterated that Sharif family has its assets outside the country. “They run the country as a personal fiefdom and family members have been tasked with important assignments. Is this democracy?” the PTI chief questioned. Those who stormed the apex court, Imran said, claim to be the champions of democracy. Addressing the police personnel on duty, Imran told them to avoid becoming Gullu Butt, referring to a hooligan who is said to be a worker of the ruling PML-N and who resorted to vandalism and looting during the clash between Minhajul Quran activists and police in Lahore. “Your duty is to give protection to people, not to serve as personal servants of Sharifs,” he said. He also instructed his supporters to remain peaceful.
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