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Pakistani Cleric 'Ready To Die' If Prime Minister Doesn't Resign

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Pakistani opposition cleric Mohammad Tahir ul-Qadri addresses his supporters outside the parliament building in Islamabad on August 21.

Pakistani opposition cleric Mohammad Tahir ul-Qadri addresses his supporters outside the parliament building in Islamabad on August 21.

A Pakistani cleric who is leading an antigovernment protest in Islamabad says he is prepared to die if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not resign within 48 hours.

Tahir-ul-Qadri showed thousands of protesters outside Pakistan’s parliament a white burial shroud on August 25 as he announced his deadline -- saying that the shroud would either be for himself or for Sharif's government.

The ultimatum came hours before the expiration on August 25 of a deadline issued by opposition politician Imran Khan, the leader of a separate protest against Sharif.

It's not clear what Qadri and Khan plan to do if Sharif refuses to resign, but there are fears they may call upon their followers to storm parliament or Sharif's nearby office.

Such a move could set off a violent confrontation with Pakistani soldiers, riot police, and other security forces who are guarding the buildings.

Late on the evening of August 24, Khan said he would announce the next step by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party if Sharif did not resign within 24 hours.

Earlier this month, Qadri and Khan led tens of thousands of protesters in marches from Lahore and other Pakistani cities into Islamabad.

They have been demonstrating in Pakistan’s capital since August 15, calling for Sharif to go.

On August 20, the demonstrators from both protest groups dismantled roadblocks and moved into Islamabad’s high security "red zone" -- the location of the parliament, government buildings, and Western embassies as well as the presidential and prime minister's offices.

But inside the red zone, the protesters so far have remained peaceful -- staying mostly on one key road in front of the parliament building.

Last week, Khan gave Sharif a similar 48-hour deadline, threatening to storm the prime minister’s office if he didn’t resign.

Khan backed away from that threat after government ministers met with his representatives.

But the latest round of those talks ended on August 23 without any agreement.

Meanwhile, other opposition parties in the parliament have distanced themselves from Khan and Qadri -- backing Sharif in a resolution that said it would be unconstitutional for street demonstrators to force the resignation of the elected government.

Khan and Qadri accuse Sharif of corruption, and say the 2013 parliamentary election that brought him to power was rigged.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dawn.com and thenewscom.pk
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