Over the last few weeks, the growing protests in Islamabad have been a source of inspiration for Pakistanis demanding an end to governmental corruption. Since August 14, the date of Pakistan’s Independence Day, thousands of protesters throughout the country have been calling for the resignation of the recently elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif due to the country’s continuing and immense problem of corruption. The protesters have set up a permanent tent city in the capital of Islamabad, and have even stormed Sharif’s residence. Pakistani security forces have reacted to the protests quickly and violently, at times shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds. So, far, at least three protesters have been killed from the violence. Now, the political leaders of the anti-government protests, Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri, have agreed to talks with the Sharif government.
The roots of these protests stem from Pakistan’s most recent prime minister elections last year. Former cricket player-turned-politician Imran Khan ran on a platform that called for an end to the rife, decades-long corruption of the Pakistani government. His candidacy caused the highest voter turnout Pakistan has seen in decades, with many enthusiastic at the prospect of Khan being the next prime minister. However, when the official results declared Sharif as the winner, Khan and many others claimed that the elections were rigged.
According to one Pakistani writer who is involved in these protests, one of the roots of the people’s anger is the country’s nonexistent justice system. “We have met families who have been unable to get justice for their daughters who were raped, we have met people who have lost their land to the powerful feudal overlords but couldn’t get justice,” he wrote.
Pakistan’s government has long been considered among the more corrupt in the world. According to the 2013 Global Corruption Perception Index, run by Transparency International, Pakistan ranked as the 127thmost corrupt country, out of a total 177 nations. Many Pakistanis hope that the recent elections, along with these protests, can be a breaking point in this cycle.