Sharif announces court probe into rigging allegations

Pakistani police forces have been deployed at strategic locations in Islamabad in run-up to the protests.

Pakistani police forces have been deployed at strategic locations in Islamabad in run-up to the protests.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court will probe opposition allegations of rigging in last year’s elections, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced.

Addressing the nation on live television, Sharif said: “The government has decided that for independent and transparent investigations into the allegations of rigging a three-judges commission Supreme Court judges should be formed.

“My dear countrymen, after this step is there any room for a protest movement? I leave you to answer this question,” he added.

Sharif’s announcement was made two days ahead of the country’s Independence Day celebrations, when followers of Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri plan to march on the capital to demand that Sharif’s government step down ahead of a fresh vote.

Earlier, the premier said that economic progress had been made under his government and that the opposition group’s protest stood to reverse the tide.

Sharif’s 2013 victory saw Pakistan’s first ever handover of power from one civilian-led government to another, in polls that local and foreign observers called credible. Many analysts have said the opposition groups are playing into the hands of the military establishment which wishes to cut the civilian government down to size.

The protests are headed by Imran Khan, who leads the third-largest opposition party, and Canada-based preacher Tahir-ul-Qadri who says he is struggling for an “interim national government” consisting of technocrats and experts.

Tension has gripped parts of the country with running clashes between police and Qadri’s supporters in Lahore over several days leaving at least one protester dead.

In Islamabad, authorities have been preparing to block roads using shipping containers while rumors of impending fuel shortages have sparked panic and long lines at petrol stations.

The government for its part has rejected the allegations and accuses the opposition groups of attempting to obtain by force what they could not achieve through democracy.


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