One woman was killed in police firing and several protesters injured as Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri led thousands of protesters armed with wire cutters broke barricades and forced their way towards Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s official residence pressing for his immediate resignation on late Saturday night.
Raising slogans against Sharif and his government, protesters marched from the National Assembly to the Prime Minister’s House, some 500 metres away, shortly after Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Qadri, heading the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), announced a shift of the protest venue.
The protesters used crane and bolt cutters to inch their way past a barricade of shipping containers as authorities rushed forces to deal with the volatile situation.
Before the protesters set off on their march, the Interior Ministry announced that soldiers would be deployed to stop the protesters.
On a day of dramatic developments, Sharif left for Lahore.
Both Khan and Qadri have been demanding the ouster of Sharif with Khan alleging that last year’s general election was rigged.
“I will lead the march to the PM House. All my supporters should follow me,” he said.
He asked women and children to stay behind until asked by him to join the march.
Khan’s announcement came soon after a similar decision by Qadri. Khan asked his supporters to remain peaceful and asked law enforcement agencies not to stop the protesters. Earlier today, Qadri set a fresh 24-hour deadline for Sharif to quit as protests around Parliament entered the 17th day amid mediation efforts by the powerful Pakistan army.
In a late night development, Qadri’s camp was visited by a delegation of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who convinced the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief to delay his next move.
Following the meeting, the first direct contact between the two groups since they together started the march on August 14, Qadri set a 24-hour deadline for the Premier to step down. Putting up a brave front, Sharif was dismissive of the protest, describing it as a “tiny storm” that will end soon.
“This is just a tiny storm, a tumult, which would be ended in a few days,” Sharif said.
Indicating that certain forces were trying to target him, the Pakistani premier asserted that “conspiracy” against democracy will not be tolerated.
“We will not tolerate any conspiracy against democracy. Everyone has seen how many people are part of the sit-ins,” he said, adding his government would not let the protesters take the parliament hostage.”
A few thousands cannot undo the mandate of millions of people, he said.
Qadri has set a number of deadlines since camping outside the Parliament since August 14.
After their meeting, Qureshi reiterated his continued…