Pakistan opposition's Imran Khan plans to lead protests in capital

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 18, 2014 12:56 PM

By Syed Raza Hassan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's opposition leader Imran Khan said on Monday he plans to lead demonstrations into the capital's central "Red Zone", a heavily protected area and home to major government offices and Western embassies.

Khan, who is trying to force the prime minister to step down over allegations he rigged last year's elections, said that he wanted the march on Tuesday to be peaceful and for women and children to come.

"I will lead you and you will follow me," he told thousands of supporters at a protest rally in the capital of Islamabad. "I am inviting all families ... there will be women and children with us."

The government has repeatedly said his supporters are free to demonstrate peacefully but will not be permitted to enter the Red Zone.

The area has been sealed off with shipping containers and barbed wire, and is guarded by thousands of riot police, the army and the paramilitary Rangers.

Any attempt by protesters to force their way in could lead to a violent confrontation.

In addition to Khan's protest, influential cleric Tahir ul-Qadri has brought his followers to the capital and has given Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who he says is corrupt, until midnight to resign.

Police estimated that there were about 55,000 protesters at demonstrations on Sunday.

(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Louise Ireland)