On the sixth day of protests, anti-government demonstrators breached the Red Zone district of Islamabad Tuesday night, and staged a sit-in in front of the parliamentary building.
Tens of thousands of protestors entered the Red Zone, the so-called district where many state buildings, western embassies, parliament and the office and home of Sharif are located, under two flags: Tahir Ul-Qadri, a charismatic Canadian national Sufi cleric and leader of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), and the others under the “cricketer-turned-opposition politician” and leader of the Tehreek-e-insaaf party (PTI), Imran Khan.
Ul-Qadri had instructed his camp to barricade the parliamentary building, adding: “We let the parliamentarians enter the house but we won’t let them leave.”
Parliamentary members, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were able to leave the building via the back exit, which was guarded by military security forces, after the meeting concluded on Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 pm local time.
Supporters of Imran Khan climb on container barricades as they march on the parliamentary building in Islamabad, 19 August 2014 (photo: Reuters)
Ruling party lawmaker Marvi Memon said that the parliament would reconvene on Thursday. Meanwhile the Supreme Court summoned both to appear before the court on Thursday. In response to a petition filed against the two leaders, Chief Justice Nasir Ul-Mulk said Wednesday: “We would like to give notice to all respondents for tomorrow.”
Imran Khan, however, has proposed an ultimatum to PM Sharif, giving him until 8 pm on Wednesday to resign, or, as he put it, “we will come to the prime minister’s house.”
Both the army and protestors are aiming to keep the peace, as security forces were instructed to allow the demonstrations to enter the earlier-interdicted Red Zone, and Ul-Qadri told his supporters, “If you and the army come face to face, don’t raise your hand. If you do, you will not be welcome amongst us.” Yet analysts are suggesting that the situation is escalating in such a way that violence may be an inevitable outcome.