RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — On Tuesday, August 19, thousands of protesters marched toward the Pakistani parliament to force the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, to resign.
The leader of the protest, former international cricketer Imran Khan, who is currently in charge of Pakistan’s third-largest political party, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), was the first to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Accusations and charges against the prime minister have been made regarding the rigging of last year’s polls in the country’s election and corruption within the government.
Tahir ul-Qadri, cleric and head of a large amount of Islamic schools and charities who control PAT, (Pakistan Awami-Tehreek), has also been holding protest rallies in Islamabad since Friday – though with proper government permission. Both Khan and Qadri have held these protests for five days now.
The protesters have put heavy pressure on the government as many are struggling to overcome high unemployment and are suffering daily power cuts. According to Reuters, the majority of Khan’s supporters are young men, disciplined and determined, ready to protest in order to make the prime minister abdicate from his position.
This demonstration of disapproval at Sharif’s political tactics has also raised several questions about the stability of the structural framework of Pakistan, home of 180 million people.
Both Qadri and Khan have, in fact, been prohibited from the “Red Zone,” which serves as home to multiple Western embassies, parliament and the office and house of Sharif. Both Khan and Qadri have kept the protesters at safe distance from the “Red Zone,” an area protected by the Pakistani army.
At the moment, both leaders head different protests with different plans should Sharif step down from his position. Both protest leaders have an estimated amount of total of 55,000 supporters between them; however, not all of them have marched toward parliament.
News source BBC has stated that Parliament has proclaimed Khan’s week-long political campaign to bring down the prime minister as unconstitutional. Although the protests have remained peaceful thus far, there is the possibility of the military intervening in the crisis.
“Pakistan cannot be reformed as long as there aren’t meaningful changes in our country; Sharif must go for Pakistan’s destiny to improve,” Khan said, according to CBS news, in his speech this week.
According to the minister, Sharif was unwilling to accede to Khan’s and Qadri’s demands for his resignation, stating that, “He believes he has the mandate to rule Pakistan until 2018 and this mandate must be revered.”
During this summer in Pakistan, there has been shortage of electricity for up to 20 hours a day, due to the inability of the government’s electric company to provide an adequate supply of electricity to match demands from the growing population. This problem has been occurring for multiple years now; protesters are demanding more electricity as they cannot live under dire conditions anymore.
According to news source CBS, Saba Khan, a young woman worker at a bank in Islamabad, said, “The prime minister lives in a mansion where the lights never go out. We live in misery and the lights go out all the time.”
On Monday, Khan also announced that his party would resign from their 34 seats in the National Assembly and in all provinces apart from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which his party has control over.
According to Reuters, at the moment, Marvi Memon, a legislator from the ruling party, stated that no formal resignation from the prime minister had been received so far. Both Khan and Qadri have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court to speak on Thursday in order to fully explain their protests and discuss their motivations.
Currently, the Supreme Court has issued notices to Imran Khan and Tahir-ul Qadri against the ongoing protests in the capital. Headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, there is a petition filed by the Lahore High Court’s Multan Bar Association which is seeking an order against the protesting parties, prohibiting them from unlawful trespassing on prohibited zones.
– Noor Siddiqui
Learn about Parliamentary Democracy