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F-M Pakistanis react to anti-government marches in Pakistan

Cleric Kashif Bilal talks at the Friday prayer at the Islamic Society of Fargo Moorhead Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 6
Ali Mazhar2 / 6
Waseem Altaf3 / 6
Ahmed Fayyaz4 / 6
Waseem Altaf5 / 6
Sajid Jhuari6 / 6

FARGO – A majority of Pakistanis in the Fargo-Moorhead community appear to agree with anti-government protesters in Pakistan who want Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and members of the country’s election commission to resign.

Protesters accuse the 2013 elections of being rigged by the election commission and Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, former chief justice of Pakistan.

Reuters reported Friday that two large anti-government movements entered the Pakistani capital of Islamabad late Friday. Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan’s third-largest party, Tehreek-i-Insaf, led the Freedom March. He said they will occupy main streets until the prime minister resigns.

Ali Mazhar, a Pakistani student in Fargo, said the people of Pakistan are exercising their democratic right by launching the Freedom March to Islamabad against what they believe is a corrupt and rigged democratic system prevailing in the country.

He claimed the power lies with a single family of Pakistan that seems more like a kingdom rather than democracy.

Mazhar said the prime minister should resign and assemblies should be dissolved, adding that the next elections should be held after the country’s administrative system is reformed.

Another Pakistani citizen, Abdul Manan, also supported the Freedom March.

However, he said martial law shouldn’t be imposed.

Manan said that people in Pakistan should be given a right to elect their leadership through free and fair elections.

Ahmed Fayyaz, a North Dakota State University student, claimed the country’s 2013 election was rigged and resulted in a corrupt political party coming into power.

The prime minister and members of the election commission should resign because they have no credibility, Fayyaz said.

He said Pakistan needs a fair and honest leader like Khan.

Waseem Altaf, another Pakistani from the area, believes freedom and revolution marches help rid the country of the civil dictatorship of a family.

He said the prime minister should resign and a government based on technocrats should be formed before the next general elections.

Muhamamd Jawad, a local student, said the current government is the result of rigged elections and must be ruled out within the constitutional limits of Pakistan.

Sardar Zahid, a Ph.D. student at NDSU, said the marches are the result of negligence because the government did not give priority to the opposition demand to verify votes in four constituencies of the country.

Sajid Jhauri, 40, a Pakistani businessman in Fargo, doesn’t agree that the prime minister of Pakistan should resign, saying Sharif was elected in free and fair elections.

Jhuari said protests like the Freedom March invite military interventions in the country’s current democratic system. He also alleged that Khan is playing into the hands of hidden forces that want to destabilize Pakistan.

The second march arriving in Islamabad on Friday was led by Tahir-ul-Qadiri, a religious scholar and leader of a political party who usually lives in Canada.

Jhuari said Qadri should return to Canada because he is not a politician and doesn’t offer a good explanation for protesting against the incumbent government.

Kashif Mubashir said Khan should point out the wrongdoings of Sharif’s government instead of launching a march of protest.

He claimed that no one can change the existing laws, system or infrastructure of the country within a couple of days, adding that the government should be given a chance to complete its term.

All Pakistanis living in Fargo agreed on one point: There should be no military intervention in the current democratic system and that democracy should prevail.

Muhammad Furqan Rao is a Pakistani journalism fellow working in The Forum newsroom until Sept. 1. He can be reached at