Pakistan opposition seeks end to Imran Khan’s ‘puppet’ rule

Opposition parties in Pakistan are keeping up the pressure on Imran Khan, holding a series of mass protests against his government.

They allege the prime minister came to power in rigged 2018 elections backed by the military.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters are due to demonstrate in the city of Peshawar, despite a government threat to ban gatherings to curb rising coronavirus cases.
The PM, who came to power on an anti-corruption platform, has said the campaign is aimed at blackmailing him to drop corruption cases against opposition leaders.
Pakistan’s powerful military denies interfering in politics and Mr Khan rejects claims it helped him win.
The next general election is not due until 2023.

Who is behind the rallies?

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has held a series of mass demonstrations since 16 October.
Its members range from a right-wing religious group to centrist and left-of-centre mainstream parties as well as secular nationalists.
Huge rallies have taken place in three of the country’s four provinces – Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Sunday’s is the first the PDM has held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Opposition parties say they want to overthrow the “unrepresentative” government, which they also accuse of putting pressure on the judiciary and mismanaging the economy.

The PDM is the latest alliance which aims to restore “real” democracy in Pakistan’s perpetual civil-military conflict.
But this time a top highlight is the return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to public politics.
And he has done this with a difference.
His direct hits at the two top military officials – army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and chief of the top military intelligence agency, the ISI, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed – are unprecedented in the country’s 73-year history.
He says they are responsible for Pakistan’s political and economic woes.

What do the rallies tell us?

The rallies held so far in Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta took place despite hurdles such as road blocks and even some arrests by the authorities.
In one such incident, Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Safdar Awan, was arrested from his hotel room early in the morning after the Karachi rally on 19 October.
The move caused embarrassment to both the government and the military after footage of the raid emerged, showing security personnel breaking into Mr Awan’s room when he was sleeping with his wife.

Soon it emerged that hours before the raid, the police chief of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, was taken from his residence to the offices of an intelligence service and “forced” to sign Mr Awan’s arrest orders. (BBC) 

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