International

Thousands Of Anti-Government Protesters March In Pakistan

Supporters of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician and head of opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, listen to his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday. i i

Supporters of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician and head of opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, listen to his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday. Sohail Shahzad/EPA/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Sohail Shahzad/EPA/Landov
Supporters of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician and head of opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, listen to his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday.

Supporters of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician and head of opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, listen to his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday.

Sohail Shahzad/EPA/Landov

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the Pakistani capital today in mass demonstrations against the government. The protests were led by fiery Islamic cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and former cricket star turned politician Imran Khan.

Demonstrators are demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over alleged fraud in the country's May 2013 election, something Sharif has refused to do, according to The Associated Press.

"I will not leave here until I have got real freedom for the country," Khan, who heads the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, told thousands of supporters who followed him into Islamabad the day before, according to Reuters.

"Decide, Nawaz Sharif! Resign and announce elections."

AP says:

"On Saturday, Qadri told his supporters to continue protesting until they bring about a 'peaceful revolution.'

" 'Nawaz Sharif should be arrested when he steps down and he should not be allowed to leave the country,' he said. He also called for the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections."

AP notes that the demonstrations have raised fears of political instability. NPR's Philip Reeves reports there is also fear that such instability could be used as a pretext by Pakistan's powerful military to seize power in a coup, as it has done frequently throughout the country's turbulent history.

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