Police have named Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a murder suspect over his alleged involvement in the deaths of 14 demonstrators in a June protest.
The protest was led by supporters of populist and opposition cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who heads the Pakistan Awami Tehreek party (also known as the Pakistan People’s Movement). Ul-Qadri and cricket player-turned-politician Imran Khan, who heads another opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (which stands for the Pakistan Movement for Justice), allege that the elections 15 months ago, which placed Sharif into power for five years, were rigged. The June 5 elections bolstered Sharif to the prime minister position in an unprecedented and historic third term.
Cleric ul-Qadri has also demanded Prime Minister Sharif face a terrorism probe along with the alleged murder charges, according to the BBC. This is reportedly only a preliminary investigation, and incriminating evidence must be found before the case is pursued any further.
It is believed Pakistani authorities in Lahore may have gone ahead with the request for filing the murder allegations which name the prime minster partly to quell the fortnight of anti-government protests that have plagued the nation’s capital of Islamabad.
Among the 20 others booked was Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif, who serves as Punjab province’s chief minister, the BBC notes. The murder charges will only be filed if a magistrate determines that there is a case to be answered, and that process could reportedly take months.
Prime Minister Sharif has stood in stark defiance of calls for his resignation, stating on Thursday that he would not concede to protests demanding that he step down. For two weeks, thousands of ul-Qadri and Khan’s followers have led parallel anti-government protests that have recently joined together; they have been camped outside of Pakistan’s Parliament demanding Sharif quit his post.