ISLAMABAD Air Huarache All White , Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- As two opposition leaders in Pakistan are set to start anti-government marches in few hours, the country's President Mamnoon Hussain Thursday said the country cannot "afford any meaningless political adventurism" at a time when it is fighting a war for its survival and stability.
The president made the comments as thousands of supporters of former cricket icon Imran Khan and a religious scholar Dr. Tahir ul Qadri are gathering in the eastern city of Lahore to begin a long-march to Islamabad later Thursday.
Khan demands resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he claimed that Sharif had been elected through "rigged elections" last year, a charge denies by the government and the election panel. Khan said his supporters will start a sin-in in the capital city and will not end the protest until Prime Minister Sharif resigns.
The prime minister has rejected calls for his resignation and announced the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the allegations of polls rigging. however, Imran Khan has rejected the proposal and said he does not expect any fairness if Nawaz Sharif rules the country.
The anti-government marches have raised concerns about the fast growing political tensions at a time when the country is facing serious security and economic challenges and the armed forces are fighting the militants in North Waziristan tribal region.
The protests coincide with celebrations of Pakistan's Independence Day on Thursday which have been overshadowed by the political polarization.
President Mamoon Hussain, who officially started the countrywide celebrations with hoisting the National Flag at a ceremony in Islamabad, warned against any political instability.
"I call upon the political leadership to play a serious and responsible role to avert any chaos and anarchy in the country," President Hussain told the ceremony at Presidency. Prime Minister Sharif, top military and civilian leaders and diplomats attended the ceremony.
"We should reaffirm our resolve to make Pakistan a progressive country, free from terrorism and extremism," Hussain said.
The president also paid tributes to the sacrifices of the armed forces fighting militants and said terrorism was promoted in all parts of the country under an organized conspiracy, which caused colossal human and economic loss to the country.
"The government is wholeheartedly working day and night to eradicate different forms of terrorism," he said, urging the nation to stand united behind the armed forces so that this menace could not resurface.
The president said the nation should also not forget the sufferings of the displaced families of North Waziristan tribal region who have to leave their homes for the sake of the country.
HAVANA: U.S. President Barack Obama turns from sightseeing to state business on his historic Cuba trip on Monday, pressing President Raul Castro for economic and democratic reforms while hearing complaints about continued U.S. economic sanctions.
Obama and Castro will have their fourth meeting, likely their most substantial, at the Palace of the Revolution, where Castro and his predecessor, older brother Fidel Castro, have led Cuba's resistance to U.S. pressure going back decades.
A U.S. presidential visit to the inner sanctum of Cuban power would have been unthinkable before Obama and Raul Castro's rapprochement 15 months ago, when they agreed to end a Cold War-era dispute that lasted five decades and continued even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The two leaders have deep differences to discuss as they attempt to rebuild the bilateral relationship.
Obama is under pressure from critics at home to push Castro's government to allow dissent from political opponents and further open its Soviet-style command economy.
His aides have said Obama will encourage more economic reforms and greater access to the Internet for Cubans. His administration hopes such changes might come at a Communist Party congress next month but doubts any political opening will be forthcoming.
Still, Obama has promised to talk about freedom of speech and assembly in Cuba. "I will raise these issues directly with President Castro," he told the Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White in a March 10 letter.
Castro has said Cuba will not waver from its 57-year-old revolution and government officials say the United States needs to end its economic embargo and return the Guantanamo Bay naval base to Cuba before the two nations can enjoy normal relations.
Cuban police backed by hundreds of shouting pro-government demonstrators broke up a Ladies in White march on Sunday, detaining dozens of people just hours before Obama landed.
Obama has urged Congress to rescind the 54-year-old embargo but has been rejected by the Republican leadership. He now has both Democratic and Republican elected officials with him on his Cuba trip and hopes Congress may act after the Nov. 8 presidential election.
One Cuban yelled "Down with the embargo!" during Obama's tour of Old Havana, and the president responded by raising his right hand.
Thwarted by Congress on the embargo, Obama has instead used his executive authority to loosen restrictions on trade and travel with the Caribbean island.
Cuba has praised those measures but Castro will likely use the meeting on Monday to press Obama to go further.
"We think the U.S. government can take more steps to send clear and direct signals in this direction," Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca told reporters on Sunday.
Obama and Castro met for half an hour during a regional summit in Panama last April and they also had brief encounters at Nelson Mandela's funeral in 2013 and at the U.N. General Assembly last September.