Thousands of members of a religious party and other opposition groups have camped out in Pakistan's capital, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan over poor economic performance.

Pakistani cleric and leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Maulana Fazlur Rehman waves to his supporters with political leader Mehmood Achakzai in Islamabad, Pakistan on November 1, 2019.
Pakistani cleric and leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Maulana Fazlur Rehman waves to his supporters with political leader Mehmood Achakzai in Islamabad, Pakistan on November 1, 2019. (B.K. Bangash / AP)

A Pakistani politician, who galvanised tens of thousands of followers to march on Islamabad, will meet with opposition politicians on Monday to consider his next move after a deadline he imposed for the prime minister to resign passed without Imran Khan stepping down.

Authorities in Islamabad strengthened security around the camp as the protest entered its third day, including walls of shipping containers blocking roads leading in and out of the protest area, as well as deploying riot police and paramilitary forces.

Firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman had led a caravan of supporters to Islamabad last week in a bid to pressure Imran Khan to step down, calling him an "illegitimate" ruler.

He claims the 2018 election that brought Khan to power was rigged, and has implied –– without naming names –– that Pakistan's powerful military had supported Khan.

The military denies the allegations, saying it remains impartial.

Speaking on Sunday, Rehman, who heads the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party affirmed "I want to make it clear now that in the future our forces will decide that they have no connection with general elections".

The opposition leader has agreed with authorities that the protesters will not leave the government-designated area.

But he has also hinted he could lead a march on the "Red Zone," the seat of Pakistan's government, to force Khan's resignation.

The prime minister says he has no plans of quitting.

Rehman's religious schools in the past have provided men for both the Afghan Taliban militant group and the anti-government Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Bilal Bhutto-Zardari, the co-leader of the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party, once led by the late Benazir Bhutto, has said his party will not join Rehman in the sit-in. 

While his party supports Rehman's call for Khan to resign, it is not ready to take part in the sit-in, he said without elaborating.

Rehman has come under attack by human rights activists who have criticised his fiery speeches as well as his refusal to allow women at his protest march. 

Even women journalists were barred from the rallies until an outcry forced him to relent.

In his speeches, Rehman has attacked the minority Ahmadi community and Ahmadi homes and places of worship are often targeted by militants. 

There are about half a million Ahmadis in Pakistan, which has a population of 220 million and which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974 under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's rule.

Rehman has also staunchly defended a controversial blasphemy law that carried a death sentence for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam.

Khan has said he won't be driven from power but has allowed Rehman's rally to go on, provided it remains in a designated area on Islamabad's outskirts.

Authorities stepped up security and brought in large containers to protect the Pakistani capital's so-called Red Zone, which houses the Parliament, government offices and most foreign embassies.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies