Islamabad, Aug 20 (PTI): Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan has threatened to storm Prime Minister House if Nawaz Sharif refuses to step down by this evening, as thousands of anti-government protesters entered the heavily fortified ‘Red Zone’ and set up camp in front of the Parliament House.
“If Nawaz Sharif does not resign then we will enter into the PM House,” Khan said last night while addressing to protesters, outside the parliament.
Khan said that he has given Prime Minister Sharif till tomorrow (Wednesday) evening to resign.
Earlier, the rallies led by Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf marched into the Red Zone and set up camp in front of the Parliament House, even as the government, opposition members and the army urging all stakeholders to end the impasse via talks.
“Promise me, if something were to happen to me, you will take revenge from Nawaz Sharif,” Khan said before starting his march towards the Red Zone that houses important government buildings including the Parliament House, Prime Minister House, President House, the Supreme Court besides embassies.
Unfazed by army deployment, Khan and Awami Tehreek chief Tahir-ul Qadri marched towards the Parliament demanding Sharif’s resignation, putting the PML-N-led government on the backfoot.
Police baton-charged Qadri’s Awami Tehreek protesters as they neared the Parliament. Clashes took place between them and the police. After the initial minor skirmishes, police slowly retreated as part of policy to avoid violence.
The protesters had reached the Constitution Avenue as the government decided to withdraw security forces.
“PM just told me he has ordered the police not to use any kind of force against the protesters as women & children are in the front rows,” Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted late last night.
Inter-Services Public Relations spokesperson Asim Bajwa tweeted: “Bldgs in red Zone r symbol of State & being protected by Army, therefore sanctity of these national symbols must be respected.”
“Situation requires patience, wisdom & sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest,” he said.
Pakistan Army has also taken charge of the Interior Ministry’s control room, Dawn News reported.
The protesters of Khan and Qadri started separately but later moved towards the Parliament together.
Information minister Pervaiz Rashid told Geo TV that the marchers have violated written commitment that they will not enter the Red Zone.
Khan wants the PML-N government’s ouster over alleged rigging in last year’s poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country.
Khan asked supporters to come back at 4 pm today for fresh phase of protests.
Qadri, whose supporters were in fact the first to breach the Red Zone, addressed his party workers in open area in front of the parliament and announced to stay in the capital till Prime Minister Sharif resigns.
“My supporters will not leave until National Government is formed,” Qadri said.
So far all efforts to settle the unrest through talks have failed as Khan and Qadri have refused to settle for anything less than Sharif’s resignation.
In his latest tweet, Khan vowed to continue his efforts to build what he called a new Pakistan.
“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
Yesterday we took a giant step for Naya Pakistan and democracy,” he said in the latest tweet.
The routine protests have turned quite ominous and the fear of military intervention has increased.
The international community has also become alive to the threat to democracy in Pakistan.
The US has appealed to all sides to refrain from violence and resolve their differences through peaceful discussions in a way that strengthens democracy in Pakistan.
“We are carefully monitoring the demonstrations in Islamabad. We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference.
In a statement today, British foreign secretary said, “We strongly support a democratic Pakistan and the use of democratic institutions to resolve political disputes. I hope that all parties in Pakistan can work together under the Constitution to peacefully resolve current political differences.”