Islamabad on edge after Khan’s threat

August 20, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s capital braced for possible clashes yesterday after opposition politician Imran Khan pledged to lead his supporters in a march on the capital’s heavily guarded government district, in a high-stakes bid to depose the government.

Khan, the former cricket star who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, says last year’s general election was rigged and has demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign.

Thousands of Khan’s followers have protested in Islamabad over the past five days to demand Sharif quit, piling pressure on the government little more than a year since its landslide election victory.

The protests come as Pakistan’s armed forces wage an offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest and as the government tries to boost a flagging economy.

Populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri has led his own protest in the capital at the same time, also seeking to topple the government, adding to the febrile political atmosphere.

Mass support for the protest movement beyond Khan and Qadri’s core supporters appears to be lacking and other opposition parties have shunned Khan’s call to unseat the government.

Newspapers and business leaders have also criticised Khan’s tactics, which on Sunday included a call for ‘civil disobedience’.

With Khan looking isolated, on Monday PTI made a dramatic double roll of the dice to try to re-energise their campaign.

First the party announced it would resign all of its seats in parliament and three out of four provincial assemblies.