Pakistan Protest Leader Khan Calls for Show of Strength
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan, who is leading one of two large anti-government demonstrations in the capital, has called on followers to show their strength on Sunday as he tries to force the government to resign.
Khan, a former international cricket star whose speech is still peppered with metaphors of the game, told supporters in a late-night Saturday speech, "maybe the world cup final will be played tomorrow ... people will forget Tahrir Square".
The reference to the square, site of Egypt's most violent anti-government protests, followed a warning by Khan earlier on Saturday that his supporters wanted to march on Parliament house and he was struggling to hold them back.
Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri both led tens of thousands of supporters to downtown Islamabad on Friday. Both protest leaders say they will stay in the streets until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom they condemn as corrupt, is forced to resign, Reuters reported.
The protests have raised worries about Pakistan's stability barely a year after Sharif took power in a landslide election win that marked the first democratic transfer of power in the history of the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.
Sharif has been struggling to overcome daily power cuts, a sluggish economy and a Taliban insurgency. Anti-Western militant groups have been growing in strength, worrying Pakistan's allies.
Sharif's relationship with the country's historically powerful military have been poor since he took office, leading some in his government to speculate elements in the military are directing the protests as a way of weakening the government and discouraging it from policies the military disapproves of.
Those include the prosecution for treason of former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf, who once overthrew Sharif in a coup in 1999, ushering in a decade of military rule.
Despite Pakistan's history of coups, few feel the military wants to oust Sharif. The country's highly activist Supreme Court issued a warning on Friday against any "unconstitutional" action.