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Pak braces for anti-govt protests, Sharif to resist

Pak braces for anti govt protests Sharif to resist Islamabad/Lahore: Bracing for two massive anti-government rallies on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday vowed to resist any move to topple his government by a moderate cleric and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who will take out their protest marches on the same day.

Canada-based Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri last night said his ‘Revolution March’ would go along with Khan’s ‘Freedom March’ on Thursday demanding the ouster of the Nawaz Sharif government.

“The Inqlab (revolution) march will begin on August 14 towards Islamabad. The revolution and Azadi (freedom) march of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan will go together,” the Canada-based cleric told the participants of the Martyrs’ Day in Model Town here.

“No one will return till the government is toppled and the system changed,” Qadri, who has been slapped with 8 FIRs under murder and terrorism charges, said.

While Qadri wants to topple the government for its anti-poor policies and corruption, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is protesting against electoral fraud in the 2013 polls won by Sharif’s PML-N.

Khan has vowed to bring Islamabad to a standstill and plans to bring one million people to the capital. He has said that his party will paralyse the capital until its demands for Sharif to resign and call new elections are met.

Sharif lambasted the two for pressing ahead with their plans to hold protest rallies and said he would resist any move to topple the government which he said was formed for five years through the mandate of the people.

Sharif while addressing the launch of the Vision 2025 programme in Islamabad criticised the timing of the rallies.

“The runaway from Canada should have participated in the 2013 general elections if he wanted to bring a ‘revolution’ in Pakistan,” he said about Qadri, a dual national, who returned in June.

He also said that PTI chief should have held the Azadi march during the general elections and not a year after they were held.

Sharif expressed readiness to address Khan’s concerns over rigging of last year polls through talks. He said he was ready to meet him anywhere.

He lamented that the some politicians have not learnt from the past when the country faced military rulers. He promised to defend the democracy.

It is believed that Khan and Qadri will give very tough time to Sharif?s government and may result in the intervention of army if the law and order situation go out of control.

Pakistan government has already handed over the security of capital Islamabad to the army for three months.

According to reports, Army will guard key government installations and other sensitive spots.

Pakistan government has also called in paramilitary forces to protect the palatial residence of Prime Minister Sharif in Lahore amid fears that the supporters of Qadri may attack his house.

Army is a powerful institution and has ruled the country for more than half of its history since Pakistan was created in 1947.

The government has also blocked entry to the Red Zone in in the capital to safeguard several key buildings and summoned additional security personnel.

The Red Zone houses the parliament, president house, prime minister residence, federal government secretariat, supreme court, foreign office, diplomatic enclave and several other important offices.

There are also reports that main entry point to the capital and neighbouring Rawalpindi will also be closed by tomorrow.

The government through the interior ministry today summoned the Frontier Constabulary (FC) to help Islamabad police with almost its 3,000 armed personnel, said an official.

The FC is one of the oldest reserve paramilitary force and was raised in 1913 by the British to safeguard the border between the tribal region and settled areas of the country. Earlier, Qadri, while addressing supporters who had gathered at his residence to pay homage to the 14 party workers killed on June 17 during a police raid, said, “If I am?murdered my supporters must take revenge from the Sharifs.”

Qadri asked his workers not to spare?him or (Imran)?Khan if?they returned without bringing about a change.

“Even martyr (kill) if I return from the march without bringing about a change,” he said.

Criticising the Sharifs (Prime Minister Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif) for killing innocent people?of his party, Qadri said.

“This is the worst kind of atrocity the rulers are committing against innocent people.”

He further asked his supporters to stay?at his residence?for three days and march to Islamabad on August 14 however, did not clarify whether?he would lead the march.

“The government has besieged Model Town for the last five days. It had stopped the supply of food and medicines to the area turning it into Gaza,” he said.

The rulers had violated the Article?6 thus, they should be tried for committing treason, he said.

“The incumbent rulers are enemies of the people and I wonder as to why the other state institutions are silent over their brutality,” Qadri said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Sherin Mazari said her party would hold a separate march.

“It will not be joint march. Our march will be led by Imran Khan and it will be peaceful,” she said.