ISLAMABAD: Thousands of opposition party workers converged on Pakistan’s capital on Friday in a massive show against Prime Minister Imran Khan, giving him a two-day deadline to resign.
The march led by religious political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman set off from Karachi on Oct. 27 and arrived in Islamabad on Friday morning.
Other opposition stalwarts including Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asfandyar Wali Khan also joined the rally in Islamabad. Addressing the gathering, Rehman demanded that the prime minister resign in two days.
“The government has only two days to resign otherwise we will announce our next strategy after the deadline ends,” Rehman said, without giving any details.
He criticized the government for its anti-poor policy as austerity measures and an IMF program rise living costs for the public.
Shehbaz Sharif, opposition leader in the National Assembly, said this protest spells the death of this government.
“Imran Khan has destroyed the country’s economy and the joint opposition can fix it within six months,” said Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of jailed and ailing former premier Nawaz Sharif and head of center-right Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is chairman of the left-wing Pakistan People’s Party, in his speech criticized the country’s powerful establishment, a term coined to denote high-ranking retired and serving military officials, and accused them of meddling in politics.
“We respect the army which belongs to the whole nation but will never accept that the military establishment should support any political party in the elections,” he said, in a veiled reference to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s mother Benazir Bhutto was the first woman prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007 on her return to the country following a years-long self exile. Her husband former President Asif Ali Zardari has been jailed in a graft case by the present government.
The Bhuttos are possibly the most popular political dynasty of Pakistan, a fact endorsed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who uses his mother’s surname to appeal to his voters.
Earlier, the government allowed marchers to enter the capital, but warned of using force if they move to the Red Zone, a high security zone which houses the President and Prime Minister Houses and foreign embassies.
Khan maintains he will not bow to the pressure and drop corruption charges against top opposition politicians of the country.
His government has been criticized for a crackdown on opposition with key figures either in jail or embroiled in corruption cases.