Pakistan cleric says anti-government protesters can 'go home'

A populist cleric leading a two-week protest to try to oust the Pakistani government said Thursday talks to end the standoff had failed and his followers would be free to leave after he made a "final and historic speech".

Islamabad: A populist cleric leading a two-week protest to try to oust the Pakistani government said Thursday talks to end the standoff had failed and his followers would be free to leave after he made a "final and historic speech".

Thousands of followers of Tahir-ul-Qadri have camped outside the parliament building in Islamabad to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying he headed a corrupt administration and demanding wide-ranging political reforms.

A parallel protest led by former cricketer Imran Khan is also calling for Sharif to go, alleging the general election that brought him to power last year was rigged.

The two-week showdown at the heart of the capital has rattled the nuclear-armed state and shaken Sharif`s government just 15 months in to a five-year mandate.

A week of on-off talks have made little obvious headway and on Thursday Qadri`s team announced they had failed and the cleric would make his "final and historic" speech at 6:00 pm (1300 GMT).

"After this speech Dr Qadri will have no control over the protesters and they will be allowed to leave," Qadri spokesman Shahid Mursaleen said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear whether Qadri was calling off the protest, though a source close to his camp said he may be planning to return to the eastern city of Lahore.

 

 

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