Thousands Take To The Streets In Pakistan To Call For The Prime Minister To Resign

Two opposition leaders are heading Pakistan’s protests: The first a Muslim cleric, and the second a former cricket player.

Pro- and anti-government protestors clashed in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, on Friday as two leading opposition figures called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign and rallied supporters in the streets for a day of massive marches.

AP Photo/http://K.M. Chaudary

Former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan is leading one group of protesters. The populist politician heads the Movement for Justice party (PTI), which won the third-largest group of seats in Pakistan’s parliament in May 2013 elections.

Kahn has accused Sharif of rigging the 2013 elections and alleges that his party really won more seats. AP Photo/http://K.M. Chaudary

Leading the second group is Tahir ul-Qadri, a moderate Muslim preacher who runs charitable religious organizations in Canada. Ul Qadri has an immense following in Pakistan.

Mohsin Raza / Reuters

On Thursday, Pakistan celebrated 67 years of independence.

Imran Khan supporters sit on the roof of a car as they wait for Kahn’s march to enter Islamabad on Aug. 15. Faisal Mahmood / Reuters

But the day’s celebrations were strained by calls for protestors to march from Lahore to the capital — and to remain in the streets until Sharif resigned.

Supporters of Imran Khan head to Islamabad to protest on Thursday. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters

To stop the planned protests, police set up barricades using shipping containers to block the main road connecting Islamabad and Lahore.

AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen

People continued to gather nonetheless and a last minute court order permitted the protests.

AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen

Early Friday morning, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 protestors had joined Khan’s procession of cars, trucks, and buses to march from Lahore to Islamabad, CNN reported.

AP Photo/http://K.M. Chaudary

By Friday evening, both Kahn’s and ul-Qadri’s supporters had taken to the streets in Islamabad.

Muhammad Tahirul ul-Qadri supporters hold pictures of him on the road from Lahore to Islamabad on Friday. Faisal Mahmood / Reuters

Some clashes and stone-throwing between pro- and anti-government supporters broke out.

AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen

Tensions have been long-brewing in Pakistan, where the government is struggling to overcome short-term crises like spiraling unemployment and crimes worsened by decades of corruption and Taliban violence.

AP Photo/http://K.M. Chaudary

Pakistan also has a history of military coups. Last year’s elections marked the country’s first successful democratic transfer of civilian power, according to the Washington Post.

People paint their faces with the colors of the Pakistani flag to celebrate Independence Day. AP Photo/Shakil Adil

Analysts say Sharif has not only alienated some voters but also riled the military by charging former president and General Pervez Musharraf with high treason. Musharraf unseated Sharif as president during a coup in 1999.

Mian Kursheed / Reuters / Reuters

Meanwhile, Pakistani forces have struggled to stop Taliban violence. On Thursday, Taliban fighters attacked two air force bases in Quetta, wounding 13 Pakistani security troops. Eleven Taliban were killed in the attack.

A Pakistani soldier stands beside a house destroyed an military operation against Taliban militants in North Waziristan on July 9. Stringer/Pakistan / Reuters

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