Anti Government Marches Flood Islamabad on Independence Day
PTI leader Imran Khan
NEW DELHI: As Pakistan celebrates its independence day on August 14, anti-government protests organised by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) took centre stage in the capital city of Islamabad.
PTI’s “Azadi” March, starting from Lahore’s Zaman Park area moved toward Islamabad, with Khan linking the success of the march to “peace and prosperity in the country.” Addressing a crowd of supporters, Khan said that freedom is not handed over on a plate, it has to be snatched.
PAT’s “Inquilab” March, originating in Model Town, too moved toward Islamabad, with Qadri outlining intended goals. These included the alleviation of poverty, the measures of democracy, accountability and the removal of corruption, electoral reforms, social rights, removing terrorism and extremism, women’s rights and the protection of minorities.
Both Khan and Qadri seem to be determined to push through with their respective marches, despite government pressure that has mounted in the weeks leading up to Pakistan’s Independence Day. Khan, whose party finished third in last year’s elections, has vowed to continue with his efforts till Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down. Qadri, like Khan, has accused the Pakistani Prime Minister of rigging the elections that brought him into power. Qadri was based in Canada and flew back to Pakistan in June, with the government diverting his flight to Lahore to prevent him from landing in Islamabad. Last week, Qadri, who has long called for revolution, announced his plans for a march on Pakistan’s Independence Day.
With Sharif raising cries of a conspiracy to bring the elected government down, PTI and PAT have found a common ground. The two parties agreed to a four point agenda on Tuesday, which are as follows:
The struggle will be democratic and will bring in true participatory democracy
The struggle will be constitutional
The movement will be non-violent
Both parties will condemn any unconstitutional measure and neither will accept martial law.
The four point agenda followed a resolution by the National Assembly to safeguard democracy in the country. The resolution was tabled by PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal and itself followed reports that the city of Islamabad may be sealed on the eve of the protests.
Although the anti-government marches have no real legitimacy, given that Sharif’s party has a majority in the National Assembly and will not willingly vote itself out of power, the threat posed by these movements has definitely alarmed the ruling party, which would explain the ban on gatherings, the impounding of vehicles, the closing of petrol stations and the deployment of troops to Islamabad. Ironically however, Sharif’s decision to deploy the army has given his critics more fodder, seemingly indicating that Pakistan’s civilian administration is still heavily reliant on the country’s military, which has ruled Pakistan through a series of coups, for protection.