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Pakistani opposition set to protest against government

Political opposition forces in Pakistan are accusing Nawaz Sharif's government of rigging last year's general election, and are set to take to the streets.

ISLAMABAD: Political opposition forces in Pakistan will take to the streets in a bid to bring down the government of Nawaz Sharif, which they accuse of rigging last year's general elections. Authorities are bolstering security ahead of Thursday’s planned mass protests, which coincide with the country's Independence Day.

Pakistan's charismatic cricketer-turned-politician and opposition leader Imran Khan had alleged that the May 2013 general elections were heavily rigged to keep his party out of power.

In response, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has proposed a judicial inquiry to investigate the veracity of the claims and formed a parliamentary committee to recommend electoral reforms. But Mr Khan has been unwilling to talk to the prime minister at this juncture, and he has called for Mr Sharif's resignation.

The government has locked down Lahore, Islamabad and other cities to prevent opposition groups led by Mr Khan and religious scholar Dr Tahir ul Qadri from holding protest rallies.

Saadya Sharif Khan, member of the ruling PML-N party, said: "We are trying to protect people. Of course, there are some difficulties and people are finding it hard to move here and there. But all the security measures in and around Lahore and Islamabad are for the people of Pakistan."

The government's decision to seal the city has created some problems for people. Residents said the containers to be used as road blocks have made it harder for pedestrians and bikers to navigate narrow streets.

There were also residents who were against the move, saying government should allow the protesters to go to Islamabad, as it is their democratic right.

Some analysts claimed the government is losing its political capital by taking such unpopular measures.

Tariq Pirzada, contributor at Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, said: "If the government of Pakistan, led by Nawaz Sharif, truly grasped and understood the way things were going at the time he took Pakistan's premiership, this day would not have come." 

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