Thousands of anti-government protesters demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan resign over worsening economic conditions and alleged election rigging have gathered in the Pakistani capital awaiting the arrival of a right-wing religious political leader.
Fazl-ur-Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, has led a five-day march from the southern city of Karachi and through the length of the country with the goal of reaching Islamabad on Thursday.
“The government will have to hand over power back to the people,” he said on Wednesday night, addressing supporters in the central city of Gujranwala, about 200km (124 miles) south of the capital. “They have destroyed the economy.”
The country’s main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have supported the JUI-F’s protest against Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which won last year’s controversial general election.
In Islamabad, thousands of JUI-F supporters gathered at a large ground designated for the protest, waving black-and-white striped party flags and cheering to political songs playing on loudspeakers mounted on pick-up trucks.