Azadi March

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Azadi March
آزادی مارچ
Protest sight at Azadi Square.
Date 14 August 2014 (2014-08-14) – 17 December 2014 (2014-12-17)
(4 Months, 4 Days)
126 Days


  • Started from Lahore to ISB and then marches in various cities.
Methods Protest, Protest march, Civil disobedience, Sit-in[1]
  • Cancelled due to the 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar.
  • Agreement reached on 22 March, in which Sharif will himself dissolve assemblies if systematic rigging is proved by three-member high-powered inquiry commission.[2]
  • Prime Minister removes the reservation of PTI for the general elections.[3]
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
100k - 1M+
Official logo of Campaign
Official logo for the Azadi March.png

The Azadi March, also called Tsunami march,[10] (Urdu: آزادی مارچ‎; lit. Freedom march) not to be confused with Pakistan Ehtesab March was the public protest march that held in Pakistan began on 14 August 2014 to 17 December 2014. Organised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party against Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, over the claims of systematic rigging by PML-N in the 2013 general election. Party leader Imran Khan announced plans for a protest march travelling from Lahore to Islamabad in August with a throng of protesters in a PTI jalsa (lit. demonstration) and then in Bahawalpur on 27 June 2014.[11]

Khan had initially named this planned protest march "Tsunami march" but later changed the name to "Azadi march" (or the "Freedom march") since its slated start date coincided with Pakistan's 67th independence day on 14 August 2014. The PTI chief called this march the final phase and the defining moment in his party's movement against electoral rigging in 2013 elections.[12][13] He announced his plans to march with a million protesters to the nation's capital Islamabad to protest against prime minister Nawaz Sharif's illegitimate government.[12] This prompted many analysts to name the protest "Million march".[14] Khan assured the government that the protest march would be a peaceful protest culminating in a sit-in protest.[15]

As soon as Khan announced his plans, Islamic cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri's political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) also announced a similar protest march. The PAT named their march "Inqilab march" so as not to be confused with the PTI protest march. Following these developments, speculations arose that the two marches might merge into one. Nevertheless, where Qadri initially refused to join in with Khan's protest and even considered changing the date and venue of his march, he later announced his march would proceed on the same day. The announcement of this informal alliance and parallel marches imposed a much greater pressure on the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz); PML-N) government to curtail the parties' aspirations.[16][17]

The protesting caravan of thousands marched toward Islamabad via the Grand Trunk Road.[18] Khan had earlier warned the federal and Punjab governments to ensure the safety of the travelling cavalcade; however when PML-N workers pelted stones at the caravan in Gujranwala along with alleged instances of gunshots fired, PTI leaders expressed concern that PML-N workers were being facilitated by the Punjab police to carry out such scuffles.[19]

The march began at Zaman Park in Lahore on 14 August 2014 and reached Aabpara Chowk in Islamabad. After Aabpapra Chowk it reached D-Chowk and from where onward protest took violent streak and Imran Khan along with Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri marched towards the Parliament House and local news channel offices during late hours of 30 August 2014.[20] Geo alleged that the prostesters attacked their media outlet.[21] However, it became apparent that the government used excessive force against media, especially media outlets ARY News, Samaa TV, Express News, and Dunya News, who are known to have sympathies with the opposition.[22] Clashes lead to violence from law enforcement authorities. Violent clashes erupted in other cities after Islamabad showdown, with as many as 13 protesters dead at the hands of the police, and several policemen injured.

The army issued a statement, which called for restraints from the police force, three senior policemen and one senior policewoman resigned from the Islamabad and Punjab police, alleging police brutality.[23][24] Since then, the protesters have got closer to the PM house and pressure has been mounted on Sharif after it appeared that the police, especially the Islamabad police, was openly rebelling, defying, and protesting against government orders.[25]

On 17 December 2014, Imran Khan announced to cancel the protest in response to terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar,[26] saying; "Due to the situation in the country right now, we have decided to end our protests, decision had been made in light of the terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar" and said that "the country needed national unity".[27][28]


Political background[edit]

Following massive allegations of rigging in the 2013 general election, former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) hesitantly accepted the election results demanding a probe into electoral rigging in 4 constituencies as a litmus test for the rest of the election process. Government inaction in this regard led the PTI to organise several jalsas (lit. protest demonstrations) throughout Punjab, which is prime minister Nawaz Sharif's political stronghold.

Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

In August 2014, Imran Khan stated that for 14 months, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had tried to bring those who were responsible for rigging to justice, all in a legal manner through state institutions. The PTI produced a 2100-page white paper showing evidence of rigging. Despite this, no action was taken. Imran Khan argued that, normally, in any democracy, the Supreme Court of that nation would have nullified the results and called for fresh elections.[29] Even after the evidence was presented and revelations by Afzal Khan, former additional secretary of the election commission, the Supreme Court also took no action.[30] However, Supreme Court sought for evidence which was necessary as per law to nullify all seats which was sought in a petition. The petitioner said he had no proof beyond the allegations which were levelled by Afzal Khan. These were proved wrong. The petition was dismissed as per the law of Pakistan which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Throughout these jalsas, Khan expressed his disappointment at the lack of initiative by the country's judicial system and the adverse behaviour of the Election Commission toward his cases against election rigging. On 22 April 2014, PTI officially announced the start of their anti-rigging movement.

Protest demonstrations[edit]

PTI Islamabad jalsa
  • Phase 1Islamabad jalsa: On 11 May (when year passed) From all Pakistan people

gathered in Islamabad to support Imran Khan where Khan demanded 4 constituency investigation from government and until that decided to protest in-front of election commission offices every Friday. Khan also blamed Geo News to be Part of rigging and announced to prove what he said in Faisalabad Jalsa.[31]

PTI Faisalabad jalsa
PTI Sialkot Jalsa
  • Phase 2Faislabad jalsa: In Faisalabad, a greater number of people gathered in his jalsa where demand of Imran intensified and he questioned the victory speech of Nawaz Sharif and decided to intensify his movement to increase pressure of government and announced Sialkot Jalsa.[32]
  • Phase 3Sialkot jalsa: In the Sialkot Jalsa, Khan addressed a huge crowd and criticised the role of the judiciary in the election. In his usual tone, he also commented on the outcomes of the result.[33]
PTI Bahawalpur Jalsa
  • Phase 4Bahawalpur jalsa: On 27 June 2014, Khan managed to gather a massive crowd at the Bahawalpur Stadium where he announced plans for the Azadi March, calling the protest march the final phase of his movement against electoral fraud in the 2013 general election. He also gave government a leeway of one month (because of the holy month of Ramadan) to open an investigation into four constituencies (as marked by his four jalsas) and presented further demands.[34]

Informal PTI–PAT coalition[edit]

As was expected, Imran Khan and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, both neither fully merged their protest marches nor fully rejected to support each other.[35] On 10 August 2014, Qadri formally announced that his party's political march, the Inqilab March, would proceed parallel with PTI's Azadi march. Both marches were organised to take different routes, albeit closely mirroring each other. However, as time went by, it became quite apparent that the two parties had similar objectives yet different aims and strategies.

The announcement of two parallel marches by parties in the opposition gave rise to speculation that a coalition between PTI and PAT was possible. The chiefs of the two parties never clearly stipulated a formal coalition but an informal agreement to support each other was achieved[36][37] On 11 August 2014, Qadri and Khan both clarified media persons that there will be two parallel marches, informally allied together for the dismissal of the government, yet without any combined forward strategy.

Goals and demands[edit]

Imran Khan and PTI had consistently asked the government to constitute tribunals and committees to investigate electoral fraud in the four constituencies since the 2013 election results were announced.[38] In making these demands, Khan reluctantly accepted the election results, albeit being consistently ridiculed by the PML-N government and ministers.[39]

A year on, the PML-N government made no headway or momentum in this regard and remained "hesitant in investigating the alleged rigging".[40] On the other hand, Khan had consistently presented proofs of electoral fraud in various constituencies.[41] The PTI chief had also named the caretaker Punjab chief minister Najam Sethi and former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in facilitating fraud on the behest of PML-N in the past elections.[42]

Initial demands[edit]

Because of the lack of government initiative in opening investigation into allegations of electoral fraud, Khan gave the PML-N government a month to fulfil his demand. He said that he had "knocked every door to find justice" but in vain.[43] In PTI's Bahawalpur jalsa, the party chief warned if his ultimatum was not met within a month, a million of his followers would march onto the parliament; Khan's primary four demands included investigations into:[44]

  • How Nawaz Sharif declared victory on the 11 May elections beforehand.
  • The role of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary in the elections.
  • The roles played by the caretaker government, in particular Najam Sethi.
  • Electoral fraud in 90 constituencies.

Generalised charter of demands[edit]

Over the course of the next month, Khan's demand took on a more generalised structure and included the following broad demands:

  • A transparent investigation into allegations of electoral fraud in 2013 elections.
  • Judicial inquiries into the roles of persons named in electoral fraud.
  • Reformation of the electoral process (e.g., introduction of electronic voting machines, etc.) and the Election Commission.

Ultimate demands[edit]

After Khan presented his demands, the government further ridiculed him and showed no concern in this regard. This only forced Khan to present the following ultimate demands alongside his earlier demands:

  • Resignation of prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.
  • Dissolution and abolition of the Sharif government, replaced with a caretaker government.
  • Call for snap elections after a caretaker government has been set up.

Still, there are expected chances of talks between Khan and the government in which much of the PTI's demands, excluding re-election[45] and replacing the Nawaz regime, can be accepted in the near future.[46][47]

Events / Timeline of March[edit]

Lahore to Islamabad[edit]

14 August

The Azadi March was due to being at Khan's residence at Zaman Park in Lahore at 10 am, but was delayed until 12:30 pm when the PTI chairman addressed the rallying crowds outside his house. Moments later, the rally began its procession towards Islamabad.[48] Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak left with a convoy of supporters from Peshawar towards Islamabad.[49] At 5:34 pm, Khattak's convoy joined with other PTI cavalcades from Charsadda, Swabi and Nowshera on the motorway to Islamabad,[50] later reaching the provincial interchange at Attock on 6:23 pm and eventually reaching Islamabad at 8:24 pm.[18]

On the other hand, Khan's rally inched its way through the city of Lahore at a snail's pace,[51] via the Mall Road, Faisal Chowk, Data Darbar, Bhatti Chowk, Azadi Chowk and Minar-e-Pakistan, Niazi Chowk, Ravi Bridge and finally Shahdaran to get onto the Grand Trunk Road leading to Islamabad. The delay resulted after the milestone destinations of Data Darbar, Bhatti Chowk, Azadi Chowk and Niazi Chowk were included in the rally route at a later time, after the protest march had already begun.[18]

15 August
PTI protesters at the Aabpara Chowk in Islamabad, 16 August 2014
  • The rally reached its final destination in Lahore at Shahdaran at around 1:15 am where the PTI chief addressed supporters at around 2:20 am.[18] The journey that would have otherwise taken a few hours took the procession more than half a day at their snail's pace to exit Lahore. Whereas, PAT's parallel protest march had reached Gujranwala by then. At 3:18 am, PAT's Inqilab march headed off to Wazirabad and later reached Kharian in Gujrat District at 6:55 am, while the PTI rally only managed to reach Gujranwala at 7:15 am.[18]
  • At around 12:10 pm, PTI activists were pelted with stones by PML-N workers while passing through an area where a PML-N party office was located.[52] The PTI convoy was on its way to exit Gujranwala at the Sheranwala Bridge injuring at least 4 PTI activists.[53] The ensuing riot was controlled by local police but no PML-N worker was injured or arrested.[54] Opposition parties PPP and JI condemned the PML-N miscreants identified in live footage of the clash while PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi held prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the attack on the PTI cavalcade.[55]
  • The PTI convoy was again pelted with stones by PML-N workers at the Pindi Bypass outside Gujranwala. The party posted pictures, on its official Twitter account, of PML-N workers standing atop a police van throwing stones thereby alleging that the Gujranwala police were aware of the government party workers' malicious intents.[56]
  • PML-N workers stood prepared at Rahwali Cantonment to intercept and pelt the PTI convoy, while PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira expressed concern that PML-N workers may be prepared to attack the convoy if it proceeds through Ghakhar Mandi.[18] About 2 kilometers outside Ghakhar Mandi at 3:35 pm, police officials travelling with Khan's convoy asked the PTI chief to leave his "‘Azadi’ bus" and travel in a faster, bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle.[57] PAT chief Qadri also called the leader to advise him to avoid areas that are known PML-N strongholds.[18]
16 August
  • At 2:01 am, the Azadi march reached its destination at the Zero Point in Islamabad under rainy conditions.[58]
  • At around 2:52 am, the PTI leadership officiate their Islamabad dharna (lit. sit-in protest) where Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad addressed the rallying crowd of protesters. Later, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak took to the stage at 3:23 am to confirm the support of the "Pakhtoon nation" for Khan's march. Khattak's speech was followed by former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's speech at 3:42 am and the Javed Hashmi at 4 am who called for the resignation of both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from the federal and provincial Punjab government respectively.[58]
IK addressing Islamabad Azadi March
  • Imran Khan took to the stage under heavy rain at 4:09 am where he reiterated Hashmi's demands for the prime minister to resign. Khan stated that his party's protests will continue until "Nawaz Sharif [resigns] and announces [new] elections". Khan ended his speech by announcing to speak again later the same day at 3 pm.[58]
  • Khan left for his Bani Gala residence after his speech and it was later reported that the PTI chairman had to leave the venue because of ill health to rest for the night at his residence. Many PTI protesters took this stance of leaving them negatively.[59] Soon after his departure, many PTI followers also made their way back to their homes and the number of protesters fell sharply throughout the night.[60] The PML-N government found an opportunity to capitalise on Khan's lack of concern for his workers "[toiling] on streets faced by torrential rains all throughout the night".[61]
  • The PML-N further reminds Imran Khan that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak should not have abandoned the people of his province where 18 people had died from incidents relating to heavy rains and downpour in Peshawar.[62]
  • As 3 pm approached, PTI protesters awaited Imran Khan to make his scheduled speech but instead Khan chose to address the media from his residence at 6:30 pm. Khan demanded the immediate resignation of Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister of Punjab. In his absence, Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the crowd at the rally venue, while Pervez Khattak left for his province.[58]
  • Khan later arrived at the venue at 7:30 pm and addressed the protesting crowd at 7:44 pm. He promised the protesters that he would spend the night with them.[58][63]
17 August
Third Day At Azadi Square
  • At 7:47 pm, Imran Khan announced that he would be delivering "the defining speech of his [political] career". He later took to the stage at 8:15 pm to address the crowd. In his speech, Khan asks his followers to "kick off a civil disobedience campaign" and not pay taxes or utility bills. Khan gave the government a deadline of two days to fulfil his demands.[64] Minister of State for Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali, tweeted immediately that "the law is clear" and if people don't pay utility bills, they would not be provided with electricity.[65]
Imran Khan
  • At 10:55 am, federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held a press conference and said that the "government is willing to listen to each and every constitutional demand of PTI and PAT". He added that he was amazed at Khan's demand for civil disobedience.[66]
  • In a meeting of the senior leadership of the PML-N summoned by Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister House, the party decided to reject Khan's demands calling them "illegal [and] unconstitutional".[67]
  • In his press conference, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also said that the government "has decided as a goodwill gesture" to constitute two separate committees to negotiate with PTI and PAT. PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira called the formation of the two committees "a good step" but expressed concern "it has been done late".[64]
18 August
  • At 3:50 pm, the Lahore High Court Bar Association moved a petition in the Supreme Court against the twin marches and the PTI-led civil disobedience movement announced by Khan.[68] On the other hand, opposition parties distanced themselves from Khan's civil disobedience movement while former president Asif Ali Zardari said Khan is using "unconstitutional means to pursue his goals [to] threaten democracy".[69][70]
  • At 6:53 pm, PTI vice-president Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the media after a meeting of the PTI core committee and said that all PTI lawmakers have decided to resign from the National Assembly. He said that the party has decided to withdraw its representatives from the Punjab and Sindh assemblies as well. However, Qureshi stressed that PTI lawmakers in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly would only resign after talks with the party's coalition members in the provincial assembly.[70]
  • At 8:38 pm, PTI chairman Imran Khan took to the stage to address the rally at the Kashmir Highway. Around 8:54 pm, Khan announced that "he himself [would] lead the march towards [the] 'Red Zone'" at 6 pm the following day.[71] The Red Zone in Islamabad houses the diplomatic enclave and embassies, parliament, government offices and the presidential and prime ministerial palaces, which had been protected by police and blocked off with shipping containers. The number of protestors is in several hundred thousands.[72]
19 August
  • At 1:40 am, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that he had received the resignation of all PTI MNAs.[73]
  • MQM chief Altaf Hussain requested Imran Khan to reconsider his decision to enter the Red Zone. He feared his party's march towards the parliament may lead to "confrontation" and "bloodshed".[74]
  • At 10:58 am, in the morning session of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assembly, opposition members decided to bring a no-confidence motion against the PTI leader and KP chief minister Pervez Khattak.[75] The motion came after the opposition members feared the dissolution of the KP assembly even though Khattak had earlier ruled out the assembly's dissolution.[76] Nevertheless, the motion was signed by 46 MPAs and submitted to the speaker of the KP assembly.[77]
  • The PML-N leadership grants permission to PTI and PAT workers to protest "on express conditions that the Red Zone will not be breached". However, federal railways minister and PML-N member Khawaja Saad Rafique remained dismissive of PTI’s assurances that the march will be peaceful.[78]
  • Opposition leader and PPP member Khursheed Shah said that all parties are united for democracy and support dialogue with PTI and PAT chiefs. He said he tried to meet the chiefs till 3 am the previous night but was unable to. After a PTI core committee meeting, the party leadership decided "not to partake in any dialogue and to continue marching to the Red Zone".[73] As a result, PPP chief and former president Zardari decided to hold consultations with other opposition parties in light of recent events calling the PTI decision a bad omen.[79]
  • At 5:30 pm, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addressed the nation and announced that the government is ready to recount votes of 20 constituencies. This negated his earlier statement that the PTI demands were out of government control "from four to 10 [constituencies] and then a complete audit of elections". He quipped that PTI was unable to live up to its claim of gathering a million people and that Khan didn't stand by his word of "not [moving] into the Red Zone". Nisar explains the three tiers of security in the Red Zone – first, police; second, Rangers paramilitary forces; and finally, the armed forces.[73]
  • The first army contingent reached the Red Zone at 7:25 pm and takes over the security of the Prime Minister House at 7:38 pm. Meanwhile, the Islamabad police take positions at the entrance to the barricaded zone.[73]
Thousands of protesters are marching towards Pakistan's parliament
  • At around 8:38 pm, both the rallies of PTI and PAT started moving toward the Red Zone. PTI workers move with cranes towards shipping containers placed at the edge of the barricaded zone, while emergency is imposed in PIMS and Poly Clinic Hospital.[73] As the party workers removed blockades, the PML-N government advises security forces not to engage with the protesters. Federal information minister Pervez Rashid said, "We will not use force. They have brought innocent children with them."[80]
20 August
  • In responding to Khan's allegations that an army chief was gifted a BMW automobile by Nawaz Sharif, director general of army's public relations wing ISPR, Asim Bajwa called such claims "baseless and unfounded".[81] In an ISPR release, the general said that the "building in the Red Zone are symbol[s] of state and being protected by [the] army therefore [their] sanctity must be respected".[82] He also added that the "situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest".[83][84]
6th Day of Azadi March
  • At 12:38 am, the lights of the Parliament House were turned off and the law ministry control room is taken over by the Pakistan army.[85]
  • PTI protesters reach the Parliament House around 3:30 am as Khan addresses the crowd saying "[he] will wait for [the prime minister's] resignation outside the parliament till the evening, after [which he] will march to Prime Minister House". PTI chief announced to reconvene the sit-in at 4 pm in the evening.[85]
  • At 12:48 pm, prime minister Nawaz Sharif arrives in Islamabad to attend the National Assembly session in the Parliament House as Qadri tells his supporters to block the exit to the building until Sharif resigns. None of the lawmakers of PTI, PML-Q and AML attend the assembly session. The prime minister did not address the house but representatives of the opposition parties rallied their support behind Sharif's government.[85]
  • With protesters outside the Supreme Court building, judges are reported to be stuck inside the building.[85]
Day 7 Azadi March
Imran Khan Addressing Azadi March
Pop Singer "Suleman" at Azadi March
24 August
  • PTI protesters continue their sit-in protest while the second round of talks between government and PTI failed on the issue of PM's resignation. However, both parties agreed to hold another round of talks.[86] Moreover, rumours abound the formation of a forward bloc within the PTI as differences on calls for resignations started to spill out on media.[87]
  • In an interview with ARY News, Muhammad Afzal Khan, former additional secretary of the Election Commission alleged that the 2013 general elections were rigged and the "peoples' mandate was stolen". He said that the prime minister Sharif "did not win the elections in a free and fair manner" and chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim "had shut his eyes on [issues of] rigging". He also said that "judges were involved in fixing the vote" and they deliberately delayed the hearing of voter fraud cases. Amongst the judges who facilitated rigging, he specifically named former chief justices' Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.[88]
25 August
  • PTI protesters continue their sit-in protest while Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered PAT, & PTI to clear the constitution avenue in 24 hours.[89]
  • Imran Khan submits six page reply on former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry defamation notice. In this reply Imran Khan commemorated former Chief Justice on standing against a dictator General Pervez Musharraf and his decision of 2009. This reply also admits Imran Khan may have made a mistake in choice of words.[90]
  • Justice Retired Kayani rebuts allegations from Afzal Khan regarding rigging in general elections 2013. He further added that Afzal Khan levelled false allegations because he was not given service extension.[91]
26 August
  • Thousands of police forces were seen getting ready to initiate a crackdown on thousands of protestors in front of the Parliament building[citation needed]. MQM leader Altaf Hussain also warned of possible violence across the country and a possible coup d'état in the country.
  • Imran Khan announced that the protest demonstration would continue until the resignation of PM.[92]
  • One day left on Allama Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri's 48-hour ultimatum to the government.[93]
27 August

He directed his counsel to withdraw the letter written in response to the defamation notice of ex-chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.[94]

28 August

Nawaz Sharif's government asked the COAS General Raheel Sharif to 'facilitate' and play his role to overcome the ongoing crisis. General Raheel Sharif invited Imran Khan & Dr. Tahirul Qadri for talks. They met General Sharif at Army Headquarters Rawalpindi and presented their demands. Pakistani constitution does not have any provision where military can provide facilitation regarding a political crisis.[95]

30 August
  • Clashes erupted as protesters tried to march toward the Prime Minister's house. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri claimed that the protest would remain peaceful, but protesters tried to force their way in. Police stepped back initially[96] but police began to throw tear gas after some time in their way. More than 500, including women, children and policemen, were injured. People in this rage broke the fence of parliament house and entered there, but on order of Pakistan army people remained outside the building.
  • Imran Khan and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi blamed that the police used chemical weapons in Islamabad incident wherein police assaulted the protesters, as well as journalist's and media personnel's who were there reporting on the event.
  • Clashes also been reported in Lahore between PTI supporters and Punjab Police, also the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced a day of mourning to be observed in Karachi. MQM chief Altaf Hussain has asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.[97]
1 September
  • The clashes continued between protestors and police. The protestors entered Pakistan Secretariat and demaged some vehicles. They also broke gates and entered the headquarters of national television PTV and ransacked it. PTV briefly went off air, although PTI denied its involvement in it.[98] The Supreme Court of Pakistan offered mediation after fifth round of talks failed last week. Also, Nawaz Sharif met Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif. A meeting of army chiefs was held at Rawalpindi to discuss the situation.[99]
12 September
  • Dozens of PTI, PAT workers have been arrested in connection with PTV and Parliament attacks.[100]
13 September
  • Court sentenced more than 4100 PTI/PAT workers to jail on 14 days judicial remand among which 3187 were PTI workers.[101]

Protest/Azadi Jalsa in Other cities[edit]

On Friday when Imran khan's party was celebrating one month of Azadi Dharna (sit-in), Khan announced the extension of protests to other cities for which Karachi was chosen as its first destination, extending on to Lahore and Multan.[111] This extension was successful to pressurize government which the PTI wanted.

In Karachi[edit]

On Sunday, 21 September 2014, near Mazar-e-Quaid a historic crowd gathered to register their protest against Nawaz Government.[112] The figure of crowd according to independent sources was extending 200,000 people which was a historic figure for PTI and a failure for Karachi-based party MQM.[113] This also showed the street power and massive support for PTI across Pakistan and resulted in increase of government confusion.[114] Express Tribune tagged the crowd to be a record breaker. After the success of this jalsa, Khan announced to move for Lahore.[115]

In Lahore[edit]

On 28 September 2014; As planned Tahreek-e-insaf managed a huge jalsa in Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore.[116] According to sources the crowd was of about 250,000 people (accepted by the government as huge crowd).[117][118] This crowd which was to be record breaker was a great threat for PML-N stakes in Lahore and huge victory for Imran Khan tahreek-e-insaf.[118] This Jalsa gave party a boost. Imran Khan addressing the crowd said them to prepare for elections and also announced to In further visit Multan.[119] Surprisingly the jalsa blocked the huge Azadi interchange for hours. Even the Cabinet admired the political power of PTI after this Jalsa and offered to begin the talks.[120]

In Mianwali[edit]

"I am going to play on my home ground today"

Imran Khan said before setting off for Mianwali from his Islamabad residence at Bani Gala.

On 2 October 2014, PTI moved to Mianwali, hometown of Imran Khan and organized a large gathering. In this jalsa, for the first time a huge number of women participation was seen in the history of Mianwali.[121]

In Multan[edit]

After Eid ul Adha, PTI's next stop was Multan. The crowd gathered in Multan to hear Imran Khan's speech is said to have exceeded 150,000. Due to the mismanagement, seven people were killed in the stampede that occurred after the speech of Imran Khan when all of the crowd and people rushed out of the gates. The management had deliberately closed the gates of the stadium due to which the incident took place.

In Sargodha[edit]

On 17 October 2014, PTI tsunami hit Sargodha after the victory of PTI backed candidate in Multan by-election. Like all previous rallies, a large number of people were present to welcome their leader in Sargodha.[122] Learning from Multan incident, Sargodha Jalsa was managed in a more efficient way. Only 25 passes had been issued to people who were allowed to get on main stage.

In Gujrat[edit]

On 24 October 2014, PTI organized rally in Zahoor Elahi Staduim in Gujrat. This was the last jalsa of PTI before Muharram. A large number of crowd gathered again as per other rallies of PTI. PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced two jalsas in week after Muharram.

In Rahim Yar Khan[edit]

On 9 November 2014, PTI resumed its marathon of political rallies with Rahim Yar Khan Jalsa. The party had taken a short break due to Muharram days. In this public gathering, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman presented the solution of political crisis. Imran Khan decided to withdraw his resignation demand of Prime Minister. But instead Imran Khan suggested the formation of a commission under the Supreme Court to investigate the alleged electoral fraud. Khan suggested that members of ISI and MI be included in the commission. He prompted the formation of commission and the sit-in in Islamabad will also continue until the completion of investigation. He threatened to gather around a mass of a million people in the capital Islamabad on 30 November if the commission is not established until then.

In Nankana Sahib, Sahiwal And Jhelum[edit]

PTI organized three different rallies in one week in different cities of Punjab. 12 November on Nankana Sahib, 15 November in Sahiwal and 16th in Jhelum. PTI also gathered large number of crowds in all three rallies. Imran Khan calls entire Pakistan to Islamabad on 30 November 2014. Imran Khan says the time for change has come. In Jhelum rally, an incident of firing occurred. At least eight workers of PTI were injured.[123] PTI Chairman Imran Khan visited the hospital to meet the injured workers.[124]

In Larkana[edit]

PTI tsunami hit PPP strong hold Larkana on 21 November 2014.PTI organized a rally outside Larkana city. This was the first time any political party had dared to organise a jalsa in the stronghold of People's Party. The large number of people attended the rally proving that the people of Larkana wanted change.[125] Imran Khan announced that PTI will not allow Sindh to be divided and Kalabagh dam will not be built without the consent and willingness of the people of Sindh.

In Gujranwala[edit]

PTI held the last rally in Gujranwala before 30 November.PTI rally was held in Jinnah Stadium Gujranwala. A large number of crowd gathered in this rally. This was a huge upset for the PML-N as it had clean swept PTI in the 2013 elections. Imran Khan announced to present the evidence of rigging in press conference next week.

End of March[edit]

Imran Khan announced the end of protest on security reasons following the Peshawar terrorist school attack.[26]

Government reaction and response[edit]

Following Khan's announcement of a protest march, the government announced that the PTI chief's demand as "undemocratic" and a ploy to "derail democracy".[126] Awami National Party (ANP) provincial general secretary and former provincial minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain expressed concern that Khan's long march could derail democracy and if the democratic system is eventually derailed, the PTI chairman would be held responsible.[127]

Government talks with opposition parties[edit]

Amidst concerns that the democracy could be derailed, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) mostly sided with the PML-N government in an effort to preserve the democratic traditions in the country.[128] When it seemed that PPP and PML-N might fall into a coalition to thwart Khan's march on Islamabad, PPP chief and former president Asif Ali Zardari asked Nawaz Sharif to act as "an elected prime minister [and] not as a 'king'".[129]

On the other hand, government coalition parties, such as ANP, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F); JUI-F) and Balochistan National Party (BNP) vowed to side with PML-N on issues expressed by Khan in his Bahawalpur speech. In fact, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Khan's political allies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also remained neutral and presented their desire to "defuse tensions" between PML-N and PTI on these issues.[130] Altaf Hussain and his political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) sent a delegation to meet with the prime minister.[131]

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman said that Khan's march is an effort to hide his party's failure to perform in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government,[132] while JI leader Siraj-ul-Haq, PTI's ally in the provincial government offered to help facilitate talks between PTI and the PML-N government.[133] As it transpired, PML-N was able to develop a rather strong alliance with various political parties in the parliament against PTI protest march,[134] comparable to the Pakistan National Alliance formed against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977.

Government plans Independence Day celebrations[edit]

In accordance to annual Independence day celebrations, the Sharif government organized a midnight event at the Federal capital. Pervez Rashid reminisced the olden days before 1999 when the government would organise Independence Day celebration in the nation's capital and revived the tradition to avert an eventual showdown by PTI.[135]

After Khan announced his plans for Azadi March, the government responded immediately by announcing their own plans to organise a social Independence Day celebration in D-Chowk, Islamabad. Citing security concerns, the government feared threats of bloodshed on the day of the march and increased their efforts to curtail the protest movement.[136] By announcing Independence Day celebrations (which were initially slated to last for two weeks) on the same day as the protest march, the government had hoped to prevent further conflict by forcing PTI to change the date of the protest, however Khan remained adamant on organising his march on 14 August.[137] PTI leadership termed these government plans a delaying strategy that could result in a deadlock between the two parties which could lead to unnecessary aggression on the day of the protest.

Arsalan Iftikhar's case against Imran Khan[edit]

Following many Anti-march stances, Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry built a case against Imran Khan. Arsalan Iftikhar alleged that by not disclosing details of his love child Tyrian, Imran Khan had violated articles 62 and 63 of Pakistan's constitution.[138]

Operation Zarb-e-Azb and security concerns[edit]

PML-N leader and federal minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, called Khan's Azadi March anarchy in disguise and criticised Khan for launching an unnecessary protest movement when the country was at war with the terrorists in North Waziristan in the Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Iqbal also declared that PML-N had "no connection with Arsalan Iftikhar" and his case against the PTI chief.[139] Meanwhile, analysts also criticised the Sharif government for delaying and discouraging a seemingly democratic right of a political party to protest. The country's news media stood divided on the issue of the protest march, where Geo News purported the march as Khan's mere wishful plan to become the country's next prime minister. On the other hand, Imran khan and his Party "PTI" is officially on boycott of Geo News from few months before Azadi March[140]

Khan's claim to gather a million protesters in Islamabad (a figure greater than the total population of the city) posed a threat to the security apparatus in the nation's capital in the eyes of the government. The PML-N government feared that such huge crowds in Islamabad could lead to severe conflicts and even terrorist attacks.[141] The government also issued plans for the Islamabad police to stop any protesters from entering the city while the Independence Day celebrations were underway thwarting any efforts of reconciliation with PTI.[141] Khan expressed his concerns regarding government's plans, calling his party's protest march the "final phase" of the larger PTI anti-rigging movement and struggle, and a "do or die situation" for his party.

Police crackdown[edit]

"Punjab police and its administration should decide whether they are servants of Sharifs or Pakistan ... Does Nawaz Sharif pay your salaries out of his own pocket?"

Imran Khan addresses Punjab police in a press conference, 3 August 2014.[142]

On 3 August 2014, the PTI Islamabad wing alleged that law enforcement agencies threatened several party workers ahead of the Azadi March. However, the Islamabad police denied allegations saying they only collected contact numbers as part of the standard operating procedure.[143] Following allegations of such threats, Imran Khan coordinated a press conference and "warned of shutting down the entire country if attempts were made to put him under house arrest".[142]

Nevertheless, as the eventual day of the protest march drew near, Punjab police "seized numerous motorcycles around the Minhajul Quran secretariat which PAT workers were supposed to use on the day of the protest".[144]

Arrests of PAT and PTI workers[edit]

On 17 August 2014, Dawn newspaper published official statistics of as many as 2,520 office-bearers and activists of PAT and PTI detained in 27 jails in Punjab under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960 (section 3; 3-MPO). Under the law, a district coordination officer (DCO) has the power to detain a person they deem a threat to public order for a maximum period of 30 days.[145] The government has decided not to use force against people sitting outside Parliament, said by Pervaiz Rasheed Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting in an interview with Dispatch News Desk news agency on 24 September 2014

International Reaction[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

As the PAT and PTI chiefs announnced to walk onto the parliament, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement that the British government "strongly [supported] a democratic Pakistan and the use of democratic institutions to resolve political disputes". He further added that "[he] hope[s] that all parties in Pakistan can work together under the Constitution to peacefully resolve current political differences".[146]

United States[edit]

The State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said that the United States government "[was] carefully monitoring the demonstrations in Islamabad". She added that the US government "urge[s] all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law" with "all parties [working] together to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue in a way that strengthens Pakistan’s democracy".[147] In a later press briefing, Harf said that "Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister (period). There is a government that was elected in place. So while we’ve called on all sides to refrain from violence, we are monitoring the situation, but we will continue working with the Pakistanis". She reiterated that "there’s a path forward... that’s peaceful. We know there’s a lot of space for political dialogue, but it has to remain peaceful".[148] When Nawaz Sharif used Harf's statement as US endorsement for his premiership,[149] Khan sent a rather tough message to the Obama administration to "mind its own politics as they had no right to meddle in Pakistan's domestic affairs".[150] Khan questioned the US authorities as to how they could call Sharif a democratic prime minister when he came to power through a fraudulent electoral process.[151][152]

Foreign reaction[edit]

  • Financial Times on 31 August 2014 wrote that the demonstrators armed with wooden clubs and wire-cutters tried to storm the official residence of Nawaz Sharif. The paper further went on to write that the at least three people were reported killed and hundreds injured in the clashes when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and wielding batons. The paper claimed that the Pakistan’s army generals are suspected by many elected politicians of having encouraged Khan’s and Qadri’s protests so that they can exert greater influence over Sharif’s government or depose him.[153]
  • Al Jazeera English on 31 Aug 2014 wrote that the Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters, some of whom fought back with wooden batons, while others threw stones and the occasional firebomb. The Qatari channel further wrote that the protesters had used vehicles to break down the boundary fence around the National Assembly and were occupying the building’s grounds.[154]


Internal criticism[edit]

Criticism against the march emerged within the party when three national parliamentarians and majority of members of K-P Assembly refused to resign. Moreover, on 31 August 2014, PTI Central president Javed Hashmi distanced himself from PTI chief Imran Khan and warned that party would have to explain its decisions for decades to come if martial law is imposed in the country. Javed Hashmi said that Imran Khan told him that he was compelled to march forward towards PM house.[155]

Economic losses to country[edit]

By 31 August, the government claimed economic losses directly resulting from the sit in were between Rs500 million and Rs800 million.[156] On 26 September, an adviser to the PM claimed the losses had run up to $6 billion (Rs610 billion)[157]

Closure of educational institutions in Islamabad[edit]

Educational institutions in Islamabad were due to start educational activities after summer holidays on 11 August 2014 but had to remain closed until 24 August 2014;[158] the dates were later changed to 31 August 2014 to accommodate the ongoing protests,[159] eventually leading to losses in the education sector. Most of the government schools are actually closed as 30,000 AJK and Punjab police are provided accommodation in public schools, amidst fears that they will be used for a crackdown against the sit-in participants.

Istehkam-e-Pakistan rallies[edit]

The ruling PML-N held Istehkam-e-Pakistan rallies in Gujranwala, Sargodha and Sahiwal. Enthusiastic workers were carrying portraits of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, national flags and party flags and raising slogans in favour of their leaders. Pakistan Muslim League-N held a historic Istehkam-e-Pakistan rally at Chairing Cross, Lahore which was attended by thousands of enthusiastic workers. Big portraits of Quaid PML-N Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif were displayed at the stage. PML-N workers were carrying national flag, PML-N flags and posters of Nawaz Sharif. Hamza Shahbaz Sharif also made a speech against protesters demanding resignation of PM.

Harassment of women[edit]

A few cases of harassment of women, teasing and disrespect have been reported but there is no reasonable evidence present for this claim. Dance at PTI jalsa has also been condemned on Social media.[160] A petition has been moved in Islamabad High Court regarding accusations of vulgarity on Azadi march protesters. A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minullah will hear this case.[161]

Go Nawaz Go Slogan and Popular Culture[edit]

Further information: Go Nawaz Go (slogan)

The Azadi March was attended in massive numbers by popular Celebrities and Actors, including Hamza Ali Abbasi, Bilal Lashari, Urwa Hocane and Mawra Hocane, Sanam Jung, etc. Famous Cricket Legends Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram also praised Imran Khan and supported him. Singers like Ali Zafar and Farhan Saeed also supported Khan and the Azadi March.[162] The Azadi March became notable for popularizing the slogan 'Go Nawaz Go', which protesters chanted against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif and members of his party were greeted with this slogan in several cities including Sargodha, Muzaffarabad, Sialkot etc. Upon Prime Minister's visit to United States of America to attend 69th session of United Nation's General Assembly, a large number of PTI Protestants gathered outside the UN office and chanted 'Go Nawaz Go'. #GoNawazGo also became one of the most used hashtags of the year on social media in Pakistan.[163]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Azadi March at Wikimedia Commons