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Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Asia

Exhausted and frustrated, Pakistani protesters want to go home

Reuters | Friday, Sep 12, 2014

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Arshad Shah, a Pakistani protester, feels trapped: worn out after weeks of street demonstrations against the government, he wants to go home but protest organizers will not let him.

Like many other protesters led by cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, Shah said organizers had taken away his national identification card to prevent him from leaving the protest site outside government offices in the centre of the Pakistani capital.

"Some (organizers) will make up excuses for why they can't return out cards yet, others will just say directly that we can't leave until the sit-in is over," said Shah who joined the rallies from the central Pakistani city of Sargodha.

"I just want our cards back so we can leave."

Others said they were instructed to turn in their cards on a daily basis, get paid to spend the day at the rally and claim the card back at the end of the day.

"I come in the morning and submit my CNIC (Computerised National Identity Card) to Qadri's people who then give us our daily wages of 300-400 rupees ($3-$4). We then sit around here all day," said Niaz Ahmed, a daily wage labourer.

"After Dr Qadri makes his speech in the evening, we get our ID cards back and off we go. The next day we come back again. I'm making almost the same money sitting around here all day as I did working hard all day."Anti-government demonstrations erupted in Pakistan last month, with protest organizers saying their supporters will not leave until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns - a month-long standoff which has destabilized the South Asian nation.

Several attempts by Sharif's aides to find a negotiated solution have failed, with protest organizers refusing to back down from their demand for his resignation.

The confrontation briefly turned violent at the end of last month, with thousands trying to storm Sharif's house.

But since then, the protests have dragged on listlessly, with weary protesters huddling inside their tents or sleeping on the grass verges of the capital's grandest avenues.

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