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Protesters seek Sharif resignation
- Thousands to attend rally in Islamabad

Lahore, Aug. 14 (AP): Thousands of Opposition protesters today joined large convoys headed to Islamabad for a mass rally to demand the ouster of the Prime Minister over allegations of vote fraud.

The rally is seen as the strongest challenge yet to the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, just a year after he took office in the first democratic transfer of power in a country long plagued by military coups.

The protesters set out this morning from Lahore in cars, trucks and buses, while others walked or drove motorcycles as they embarked on the 300km journey to Islamabad. Initially 5,000 protesters were on the march, but the number increased. The convoy covered just 5km in seven hours.

The convoy is led by Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan. The demonstration was called to coincide with Pakistan’s Independence Day.

“I am going to Islamabad to seek resignation from Nawaz Sharif,” Khan told supporters in a speech this evening. “Get ready to win the match,” said Khan, who is revered in Pakistan for leading the national team that won the 1992 World Cup.

Sharif’s ruling party has rejected Imran’s demand, saying the elected democratic government would complete its term, which ends in 2018.

Thousands of policemen were deployed across Islamabad and along the convoy’s route while the capital’s entry points have been blocked since earlier this week with large shipping containers. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the government had allowed peaceful rallies but that “anyone trying to disrupt peace would be dealt with an iron hand”.

The protesters were moving slowly and were expected to arrive in Islamabad tomorrow, a day later than planned.

Khan’s convoy got off to a colourful start in Lahore, with protesters dancing to the beat of drums and singing patriotic songs.

 
 
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