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Pakistani Islamists Converge On Islamabad, Urge PM To Resign


Supporters of Pakistani firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party, chant slogans as they wait to greet him on the outskirts of Islamabad on October 31.

Hundreds of thousands of members of a radical Islamist party have gathered in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, calling for Prime Minister Imran Khan's resignation over economic hardships.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, began the so-called Azadi March on Islamabad from the southern city of Karachi on October 27.

Demonstrators traveled on buses, bikes, and private cars to gather in Islamabad by late evening on October 31 for the anti-government protest.

Authorities have deployed police and paramilitary forces and placed shipping containers on key roads in the capital to prevent the massive march from reaching the Red Zone, where government offices, parliament, and foreign embassies are located.

Mobile phone and Internet signals have been reportedly blocked within a 3-kilometer radius around the area where the rally is taking place.

Highways leading into Islamabad that are usually clogged by traffic were deserted on the morning of November 1.

Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam attend an anti-government march in Islamabad on November 1.
Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam attend an anti-government march in Islamabad on November 1.

All school were closed in the capital and in the nearby city of Rawalpindi on November 1.

Before the start of the march, the ruling party and opposition parties reached an agreement to allow the anti-government march as long as they protesters do not cross the Red Zone.

Khan, who came to power last year, has refused to quit, despite a rise in inflation and living costs.

Rehman says Khan is incompetent and his government was illegitimately installed by Pakistan’s military after a rigged election in 2018.

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

"We want the prime minister's resignation," Rehman said, insisting that a new "free and fair" vote be held.

"The entire assembly is fake. We want to dissolve it," the cleric said.

Khan won Pakistan’s 2018 general elections on promises to end corruption, help middle-class families, and get the country's faltering economy on track.

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

With reporting by AP and