Protesters led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been demanding Imran Khan's resignation (Photo Credit: Twitter @MaulanaOfficial)
Pakistan's opposition parties are expected to come together at one massive protest rally on Friday after the 'Azadi March' led by influential Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman reached capital Islamabad. The protesters led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been demanding Khan's resignation, accusing him of "rigging" the 2018 general elections. The crowd further swelled in Islamabad, as supporters of opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People Party (PPP), joined the anti-government protest rally.
After the Azadi Jalsa on Friday, protesters are expected to stage a sit-in. Rehman has warned that there will be "chaos" in the country if the PTI-led government refuses to resign in the aftermath of his Azadi March protest. Hinting at a sit-in, he said his party wants to give the government a time period of 2-3 days "while sitting in Islamabad".
Pakistan's opposition leaders including Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have supported the march. On Friday, Bilawal visited the main camp of marchers and addressed them. He said all opposition parties have gathered at one platform to give a clear message to Prime Minister Imran Khan that the time has come for him to step down. PPP will participate in the Azadi March jalsa during with party Secretary General Nayyar Bukhari addressing participants.
Meanwhile, JUI-F leader Mufti Kifayatullah has been released from Haripur Central Jail and has left for Islamabad to participate in the march.
Rehman launched the "Azadi March" along with leaders of other opposition parties on October 27 from the southern Sindh province. He was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on October 31. However, it was delayed due to Lahore train fire tragedy.
The protesters have encamped in the sprawling ground near Peshawar Mor area where different political parties have set up their camps to house their workers.
Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities have made elaborate security arrangements to control the sea of protesters. Main roads have been completely or partially blocked by placing shipping containers. Barbed wires have been used as hurdles to prevent protesters if they try to move towards the Red Zone that includes key official buildings and diplomatic enclave.
Additional police and paramilitary personnel have also been deployed in Islamabad to prevent any violence. The government deployed army personnel in sensitive places in the capital.
The Islamabad local administration requisitioned 111 Brigade in the highly secured Red Zone, which houses sensitive buildings like Parliament House, Supreme Court, Foreign Office, Pakistan Television, Radio Pakistan and Diplomatic Enclave (a cluster of dozens of foreign embassies).
Prime Minister Imarn Khan has already denounced the protest, saying that the opposition parties were trying to blackmail him. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party alleged that the protest was promoted by the PML-N and the PPP to force the government to release its top leaders, currently held in jails. Khan and his party has ruled out his resignation but showed readiness to accept any other demand to improve election system or system of governance.