Channel NewsAsia

Calls for new elections as protesters reach Islamabad

Pakistan's Imran Khan vowed on Saturday (Aug 16) thousands of protesters rallying in Islamabad would not move until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down, as the cricketer-turned-politician attempts to call for new elections.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Imran Khan vowed on Saturday (Aug 16) thousands of protesters rallying in Islamabad would not move until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down, as the cricketer-turned-politician attempts to call for new elections.

The protesters are in high spirits after marching for more than 36 hours from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad. Tens of thousands of people had gathered for the protest march that started on Pakistan's Independence Day on Thursday.

In addition to Khan, the groups were also led by populist cleric Tahirul Qadri. The crowd has now reached the capital to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Although the rally did not grow to become the "million man" march organisers had hoped, many are now reinvigorated as protest leaders and their convoys start reaching the capital.

Tens of thousands of protesters waited for days in the wind and the rain to catch a glimpse of their leader Imran Khan. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the person everyone was waiting for eventually turned up.

The pouring rain did little to dampen Imran Khan's fiery rhetoric and he didn't disappoint his followers. "Mr Sharif do you know what happens when the umpire's finger goes up? You have to go back to the pavilion, your turn is over and a new batsman comes in. God willing new elections will be held, a new government will be made and a new Pakistan will come into being," said Khan.

But the ruling party is brushing aside the calls for a new election and for change at the very top.

"If they demand resignation from the Prime Minister this is neither legal nor constitutional,” said Siddique ul Farooq. “If they say that we will keep on sitting here till the government is changed, that is also illegal and unconstitutional. Constitution permits to express their opinion, to rally for something and then disperse. But he is seldom rational."

Protesters have begun their sit-in at the capital to force the prime minister to step down. All eyes are now on Nawaz Sharif and his party to see how they will respond.