Pakistan Army says it supports the elected government amid major protests
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan The powerful military said they supported the country's elected government and the constitution, as tens of thousands of opposition protesters gathered in the capital demanding that the Prime Minister Imran Khan The one-year government resigns on Sunday.
We believe in the law and the constitution, and our support is with the democratically elected government, not with any party, senior military spokesman General Asif Ghafoor said in comments to a television news channel Friday night.
Earlier on Friday, the opposition had demanded that Khan, the cricket star become a politician, and his administration resign within two days, which increased the stakes in a protest campaign that the government has denounced as a threat to democracy.
The opposition says Khan's government is illegitimate and is being propped up by the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history and sets security and foreign policy.
The army denies meddling in politics and Khan has rejected calls to resign.
The protest leader, the head of the religious party Fazl-ur-Rehman, said in a demonstration of tens of thousands of supporters that he did not want a collision with institutions, a little veiled reference to the military, and asked them to be impartial.
Ghafoor said that Rehman should know that the army was impartial and should not be dragged into politics.
Rehman, leader of the conservative Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl party, is a veteran politician who can mobilize meaningful support in religious schools across the country.
He joined the demonstration on Friday, which police estimated 35,000 people attended, by leaders of the two main opposition parties.
Protesters camped at the rally site on Saturday, cooking food and resting.
Rehman had warned before about the chaos if the government did not resign, but on Friday he told the crowd that they would decide what action they would take if their two-day sitting at the rally failed.
Security is strict Islamabad with the government and the diplomatic sector, a few kilometers from the concentration, closed, with transport containers used to block the roads.
On Friday, the army chief general urged the government to handle the protest peacefully.
The government, which is struggling to route the economy, has denounced the protests as a threat to the constitution and democracy and has said it will not be allowed to paralyze the capital.