Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

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Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) shout slogans as they block a highway during an anti-government protest in Karachi on November 14, 2019. (AFP)
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Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) block a highway during an anti-government protest in Karachi on November 14, 2019. (AFP)
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Supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) block a highway during an anti-government protest in Karachi on November 14, 2019. (AFP)
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Residents cross a highway blocked by supporters of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) during an anti-government protest in Karachi on November 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.


Frenchman gets 30-year term over 2015 knife attack on soldiers

Updated 12 December 2019

Frenchman gets 30-year term over 2015 knife attack on soldiers

  • Moussa Coulibaly, now 35, staged his assault just weeks after the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris
  • After the Nice attack Coulibaly told investigators he hated France as well as police, the military and Jews

PARIS: A Paris court on Thursday sentenced an extremist to 30 years in prison over his February 2015 knife attack on three soldiers guarding a Jewish center in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

Moussa Coulibaly, now 35, staged his assault just weeks after the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris, the beginning of a wave of assaults carried out in the name of Daesh and other extremist groups.

In issuing its ruling, the judges noted that Coulibaly had shown “little or no regret” for the attack, in which two soldiers were injured before a third wrestled Coulibaly to the ground.

They found “an almost fanatical determination” to apply Daesh calls for French citizens to carry out terror attacks on home soil.

The assault sparked criticism of the government’s security efforts after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, since Coulibaly was well known to police.

A few weeks earlier, French intelligence services had been alerted to the fact that he was trying to enter Turkey — a key staging point for extremists seeking to go fight in Syria — and asked the country to expel him.

He was questioned upon his return but later released because of insufficient evidence to press charges.

After the Nice attack Coulibaly told investigators he hated France as well as police, the military and Jews.

But in court on Thursday, Coulibaly said “I’m now against violence. I would not do again what I did.”