Channel NewsAsia

Anti-government protesters prepare to march on Pakistan capital

Potential violence is overshadowing Pakistan's Independence Day on Thursday (Aug 14) - more than 20,000 police and paramilitary forces are being deployed to foil a major rally against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

LAHORE: While many across Pakistan celebrate its 68th Independence Day, tens of thousands are gearing up for anti-government protests from the eastern city of Lahore - for them, this process starts with a 400km long march from Lahore to the capital Islamabad.

They are responding to calls by opposition leader Imran Khan and populist cleric Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. The plan is to stage a sit-in at the capital until the Prime Minister resigns. Majid, who is one of the protesters, said: "I decided revolution was more important. I intend to go all the way till the end."

With the government deploying thousands of policemen across the city, protest leaders have refused to rule out violence during the march.

Muhammad Ashfaq Alam, a politician from an opposition party, said: "We are peaceful people and we love peace. We want to establish peace. But if the government, the state power, takes any action against innocent and unarmed people, then the people can do whatever they want in their defence."

The government said it would not allow anyone to resort to violence as a means of protest. Police have sealed the area where the cleric resides with containers in a bid to prevent his supporters from heading out to the capital. However, the Lahore High Court has ordered the government to immediately remove the hundreds of containers.

However the government filed an appeal against the decision, claiming that the court does not have authority to interfere in the provincial government's security and administrative matters. This has prompted fears of violence if the protestors start to force their way out of the cordon.