Thousands rally in Pakistan to demand Imran Khan step down


Thousands of activists from Pakistan's opposition political parties were camped in the capital Islamabad on Friday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down.

The protest is led by an Islamic leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and most among the protestors are from his right wing Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam party.

Rehman began the march with his loyalists from the southern city of Karachi on Sunday and covered nearly 2,000 kilometres to reach Islamabad after midnight on Thursday.

Other opposition groups including that of former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif have also joined protests, piling up pressure on Khan.

Rehman, a 66-year-old cleric from the powerful Deobandi school of thought of Sunni Islam, demanded Khan resign or face protests by hundreds of thousands of his supporters.

"We are going to Islamabad to throw an illegitimate government out," Rehman said at a rally in a town near Islamabad on Thursday afternoon.

Opposition parties said the national elections last year that brought Khan to power were held under the influence of the military and were rigged to install a government preferred by the army generals.

The military has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence since the country gained independence from Britain in 1947. Generals are accused of manoeuvering behind-the-scenes to destabilise civilian governments when they are not in power directly.

"We are out to challenge a government doing military's bidding," Rehman's spokesman Ghafoor Haideri said.

Pakistan has a chequered political history due a longstanding tussle between the military and civilian leaders. No prime minister has completed a full term in office in 70 years.    (dpa)

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