PTI chief says ending protest is ‘need of the hour’ as Pakistan mourns Taliban attack on Peshawar school.
Opposition leader Imran Khan on Wednesday called off a four-month long protest movement to topple the government following the massacre of nearly 150 people by the Taliban at a school in Peshawar.
His announcement came a day ahead of his party’s planned nationwide shutdown intended to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign and for his government to conduct an impartial inquiry into allegations of fraud in the 2013 elections. Khan told supporters outside Parliament that ending the 126-day vigil was the “need of the hour” as Pakistan mourned the loss of 148 people, including 132 students killed in Tuesday’s attack.
“We are backing off right now from our protest because it is need of the hour. I thank the women, the children, the youth and everyone for participating in our movement,” he said. Khan said his movement, which began in August in Islamabad but later spread nationwide, had helped the party in its campaign for a judicial commission to review last year’s elections, which local and foreign observers rated as credible.
But he warned that he might revive the protests if his demands were not met. “If required we will come back out on streets,” he said.
Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, joined hands with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri in August to march on Parliament. On Sept. 1, protesters briefly occupied the state broadcaster, triggering fevered speculation the Army may intervene as it had in the past. But Qadri’s supporters left the movement in October while Khan switched to holding protests across the country’s major cities.