Pakistan's Azadi March to Overthrow Prime Minister, 2014

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Timing
Time Period:  
Augut 14th
2013
to
December 17th
2014
Location and Goals
Country: 
Pakistan
Location City/State/Province: 
Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Multan, Mianwali, Sargodha, Gujrat, Rahim Yar Khan, Nankana Sahib, Sahiwal And Jhelum, Larkana, and Gujranwala
Location Description: 
(Marches travelled throughout many regions of Pakistan)
Goals: 
Vote recount in four National Assembly constituencies of Lahore, Sialkot and Lodhran; establishment of an independent commission to analyze the entire general elections held in May 2013; initiation of severe action against the returning officers found involved in rigging; fresh parliamentary polls if rigging was proved in the elections; reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and massive electoral reforms.
 

The government of Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif was widely mistrusted by
its people. Prior to the parliamentary election in May of 2013, Sharif
had already declared himself Prime Minister of Pakistan before citizens
had even voted. In 2014, former national cricket
player-turned-politician Imran Khan led a campaign that made six demands
in response to the widely shared notion that Sharif had rigged the 2013
elections in his favor. These demands included a “vote recount in four
National Assembly constituencies of Pakistan; establishment of an
independent commission to analyze the entire general elections held in
May 2013; initiation of severe action against the returning officers
found involved in rigging; fresh parliamentary polls if rigging was
proved in the elections; reconstitution of the Election Commission of
Pakistan (ECP) and massive electoral reforms.” Ultimately, Khan and his
supporters called for the resignation of Sharif and anyone who was
involved in the fraud.

In the province of Punjab, Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, cleric and leader of
the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party, spoke openly against Sharif and
his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz; PML-N). On 10 August,
2014, a clash between Qadri’s supporters and police erupted, injuring at
least one hundred people and killing two protesters. Four days later,
on the 67th anniversary of the country’s independence, civilians against
the illegitimate Sharif government gathered for a more peaceful protest
in Islamabad, drawing tens of thousands of supporters to the streets.
Qadri announced the beginning of a month-long “Inqilab March”, or
“Revolution March”. Simultaneously, Imran Khan declared the beginning of
the “Azadi March”, or “Freedom March”, organized by the Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which began at his residence in Lahore.
Together, these two massive protests put pressure on the government by
inspiring other marches to occur throughout the nation for months until
the demands were met. Qadri expressed that “we reject any kind of
manifestation of militancy,” and that he will kick anyone who supported
violence “out of his company”, and Imran Khan assured the government
that his marches would remain peaceful and culminate in sit-in protest.
He gave the PML-N government one month until the protests would begin to
march to the “Red Zone,” the diplomatic district that contained the
national Parliament.

PTI convoys were quickly mobilized as the Azadi March and rallies headed
to Islamabad. PTI shared and live-updated the campaign plans via their
twitter account (@PTIofficial), allowing for mass involvement. En route
to Islamabad on 15 August in Gujranwala, a few PTI activists were
injured when they were pelted with stones by PML-N workers. According to
video footage, workers incited a riot against the activists. Two
factors suggested to many that the police were aware and in favor of the
PML-N action: photo evidence of PML-N workers throwing stones from
Gujranwala police cars, and the fact that the police who were present
did not arrest any of the instigators.

Over the next three days, the march reconvened in Islamabad where
leaders spoke to the crowd in torrential rain. Khan called for the
campaign’s dedication to civil disobedience and for protesters to stop
paying taxes and utility bills to weaken the government. At one point,
Khan left the protesters in the rain and addressed them virtually via
webcam from inside his home.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak also left the rally
for shelter. The PML-N utilized this opportunity to convince many
frustrated protesters that Khan did not care to suffer along with them
and that Khattak only attended the march for a photo opportunity, and
the size of the crowd dropped sharply. Khan returned, however, and vowed
to stay the night with the people on the street.

Police detained thousands of protesters as the rallies continued. The
Lahore High Court Bar Association attempted to pass a petition against
the marches in the Supreme Court. Allegedly, the Punjabi Taliban made
several threats against Khan’s life. In a press conference on 17 August,
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the federal interior minister, expressed that
he was impressed by the campaign’s vow to civil disobedience and said
the "government is willing to listen to each and every constitutional
demand of PTI and PAT" by creating two committees to negotiate with each
opposition group. However, the PML-N government quickly rejected Khan’s
demands, as the campaign was "illegal [and] unconstitutional". The
federal interior minister also released the news that approximately
60,000-70,000 votes in every constituency could not be verified. Imran
Khan alleged in a speech that a PML-N worker printed hundreds of
thousands of extra ballots and distributed them among fellow workers,
rigging the vote in Sharif’s favor.

By 19 August, many PTI leaders expressed weariness with Khan’s decision
to approach the Red Zone that night, fearing that confrontation might
turn to bloodshed. Khan declared that he would physically lead the
campaign himself. The Red Zone was blocked with shipping containers, so
PTI workers moved in with cranes to make room for the march. The PML-N
government was instructed to not harm protestors, as federal information
minister Pervez Rashid said, "We will not use force. They have brought
innocent children with them."

The next day, the Pakistani army occupied the law ministry control room
and all of the lights were turned off in the Parliament house as the
Azadi March approached. Khan informed the crowd that they would sit
outside the Parliament and give Sharif until 4pm to resign. Qadri also
instructed his supporters to block the exit to the Supreme Court until
Sharif resigned, trapping judges inside the building. After almost a
week of sit-in protest in the Red Zone, the Supreme Court gave the
protesters 24 hours to clear the area, and police prepared for a
potentially violent crackdown outside of the Parliament building.

On 30 August, protesters attempted to march towards the Prime Minister’s
house. Though generally peaceful, some attempted to force their way
through the gates to the house and police tear-gassed the crowd of men,
women, and children. Police injured more than 500 people were injured,
and a small but undetermined number of people died. The police-protester
clashes continued for days until thousands of arrests and jail
sentences reduced the strength of the crowd. Sharif continued to cling
to power and ignore requests to resign.

Marches continued throughout Pakistan, with varying amounts of success. A
rally of 150,000 people was held in Karachi on 21 September and a rally
of 250,000 people was held in Lahore on the 28 September, impressing
many as a show of the political strength of PTI. On 2 October, the
protest in Mianwali became notable as the largest public display of
participation of women in Mianwali’s history. The march reached about
nine additional stopping points, some in which injury and death occurred
due to the chaos and disorganization of such large numbers of people.
Protesters further accused Sharif of spending millions in taxpayer money
in a time of panic. Though Sharif had not budged, many agreed that the
campaign was only gaining influence to make change. However, on 16
December, the protest came to a hault. The terrorist group
Tehrik-i-Taliban attacked the Public Army School and massacred its
students and teachers, which prompted a time of national mourning and
feared security. In the wake of the deadliest terror attack in
Pakistan’s history, the campaign came to a close in late March of 2014
when both leaders and civilians were fearful of another attack. The
campaign was unable to reach its objectives of a vote recount, and
Sharif remained in power.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry standing against a dictator General Pervez Musharraf and his decision of 2009

Sources: 
BBC News. 2014. “Pakistan: Imran Khan quits talks with PM Nawaz Sharif.” BBC News, August 21. Retrieved May 19, 2015. (http://web.archive.org/web/20150519204318/http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28875420)

Butt, Tariq. 2014. “Imran Presents Six Demands for Giving up Azadi March.” The News, August 9. Retrieved May 19, 2015. (http://web.archive.org/web/20150519210658/http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-32095-Imran-presents-six-demands-for-giving-up-Azadi-March)

Elba, Mariam. 2014. "Protests in Pakistan demand end to corruption." Waging Nonviolence, September 10. Retrieved May 19, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150519205850/http://wagingnonviolence.org/2014/09/protests-pakistan-demand-end-corruption)

The Express Tribune. 2014. “LIVE Islamabad Protests.” The Express Tribune, August 9. Retrieved May 19, 2015. http://web.archive.org/web/20150519210807/http://tribune.com.pk/story/746421/azadi-march-updates-if-anything-happens-to-me-hold-the-pm-responsible-says-imran/

New York Times. "Nawaz Sharif (Chronology of Coverage)." New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150519210209/http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/nawaz_sharif/index.html)

Wikipedia. “Azadi March.” Wikipedia. Retrieved May 19, 2015. (http://web.archive.org/web/20150519210416/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azadi_March)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jasmine Rashid 2/12/15