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Up to 100,000 to take to the streets of Islamabad in anti-government protests

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Up to 100,000 to take to the streets of Islamabad in anti-government protests

pakistan islamabad protest
Photo: AFP

A large anti-government march that started in Karachi on Saturday is expected to reach the capital of Islamabad today.

The protest is being led by Islamist opposition party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl. While the party holds no seats in Pakistan’s parliament, the march has the support of most major opposition parties and could attract over 100,000 supporters today.

Protesters accuse PM Imran Khan of rigging last year’s election with the powerful army’s support and are demanding his resignation.

In reality, however, this movement is being driven by Pakistan’s woeful economic situation. Inflation is hovering around 12% and annual economic growth is forecast to be 3%—Pakistan’s lowest in eight years. Khan’s economic austerity policies of increased taxes and reduced energy subsidies—driven by a $6 billion IMF bailout that he had promised Pakistan would never sign—have aggravated the discontent. Still, the protests are unlikely to force Khan’s resignation as he retains the army’s backing.

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The PM may seek to temper the demonstrations by uniting Pakistan against India’s actions in Kashmir. If that fails, he could propose rolling back some austerity measures—a less palatable move as that would jeopardise the IMF bailout package.

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