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Pakistan's PM threatens to clear protesters camped in capital - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Supporters listen to Imran Khan deliver a speech during what has been dubbed a "freedom march" in Islamabad on September 16, 2014. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)

Supporters listen to Imran Khan deliver a speech during what has been dubbed a “freedom march” in Islamabad on September 16, 2014. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)

Islamabad, Reuters—Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, weakened by weeks of demonstrations calling for him to resign, threatened on Wednesday to clear a protest camp established more than a month ago outside government offices in Islamabad.

Protesters led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star, and Tahir ul-Qadri, a firebrand cleric, have been locked in a bitter stand-off with the government since mid-August, refusing to leave their camp until Sharif steps down.

The protest leaders accuse Sharif of rigging last year’s election which brought him back to power in a landslide.

“Up until now, we have tolerated all this and acted with decency and patience,” Sharif said in televised remarks.

“Otherwise it’s no hard task for us to clear the way and clear the streets.”

Pakistan’s opposition leaders ordered thousands of their supporters this weekend to resist any government attempt to quash their protests, prolonging a political crisis in the coup-prone country.

Khan’s party said it had not backed down from its demand that Sharif quit and was ending dialogue with the government after 100 activists were jailed over the weekend.

“We have not withdrawn our demand for the resignation of the prime minister,” said Jehangir Tareen, the party’s secretary general. “There is no point in continuing the dialogue with the government after the crackdown on our workers.”

The confrontation turned violent last month, with thousands trying to storm Sharif’s house and briefly taking the state television channel off the air.

Violence in the usually quiet capital has alarmed many people in a nation where power has often changed hands though military coups rather than elections.

Some ruling party officials have accused the military of instigating the unrest in order to destabilize Sharif so that it can exert more influence over him. The army has denied it was meddling in civilian affairs, saying it is neutral.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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