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Anti-Government Protesters End Islamabad Sit-In To Block Roads

Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e Islam shout slogans during an anti-government march in Islamabad on November 13.

ISLAMABAD -- A radical Pakistani cleric has called off a two-week sit-in on the capital's main highway, but told his supporters to start blocking roads across the country.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e Islam party, told the anti-government protesters in Islamabad on November 13 to return to their home states to begin "Plan B."

“We will leave this place now and will join those who are blocking roads across the country,” he told the crowd.

Earlier, Rehman supporters blocked the Quetta–Chaman highway linking the country with Afghanistan, resulting in a long line of trucks.

The protests led by Rehman began last month with an Azadi (Freedom) March from the southern city of Karachi to Islamabad.

Tens of thousands of supporters reached the capital late on October 31, where they have been holding a sit-in demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan's resignation and new general elections.

The opposition claims the prime minister is incompetent and that his government was illegitimately installed by Pakistan’s military after a rigged general election in 2018.

Khan came to power last year promising to end corruption, help middle-class families, and get the country's faltering economy on track. But his government was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion bailout in July.

The military has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence since the country's independence from Britain in 1947.

No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term in office in 70 years.