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Pakistani Opposition Calls Off Road Blockades

Activists of Pakistani political parties Jamiat Ulam-e Islam and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party block a road leading to the southwestern city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province.

ISLAMABAD -- A radical Pakistani cleric and other opposition leaders have called on their supporters to stop blocking roads in the country's major cities, saying the protest action is harming ordinary people.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad late on November 19, the opposition leaders also vowed to continue to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

The opposition claims Khan is incompetent and that his government was illegitimately installed by Pakistan's military after a rigged general election in 2018.

Anti-government protests led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e Islam party, began last month with an Azadi (Freedom) March from the southern city of Karachi to Islamabad.

Tens of thousands of supporters reached the capital on October 31 and started a sit-in on the city's main highway, calling for new general elections.

But Rehman on November 13 called off the two-week sit-in and told his supporters to start blocking roads across the country.

Khan came to power last year promising to end corruption, help middle-class families, and get the country's faltering economy on track. But his government was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion bailout in July.

The military has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence since the country's independence from Britain in 1947.

No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term in office in 70 years.