Protest leader Rehman tells supporters to launch ‘Plan B’, threatening to block several main highways across country.

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Pakistan called off a two-week sit-in on Islamabad’s main highway, but began what they called “Plan B” aimed at crippling the country’s roads and toppling Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Protest leader Fazl-ur-Rehman, chief of the conservative Assembly of Islamic Clerics (Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl; JUI-F) party, told his supporters on Wednesday to return to their home states to begin the “next phase” of the “ongoing movement”, which he said would continue until the government resigns and fresh elections are held.

Demonstrators set off on the march from the southern city of Karachi on October 27 and arrived in Islamabad on October 31, where they had been holding a sit-in for almost two weeks.

“Our strength is converged here, and our associates are out on the roads. They need your help and assistance,” Rehman told the crowd from the top of an articulated truck that has served as a stage for nightly addresses to protesters.

“Your presence here has cut the roots of the government. In the next phase, we will demolish this trunk.”

He threatened to block several main highways, which could disconnect major cities from the rest of the country.

Earlier on Wednesday, JUI-F workers, holding party flags, blocked the western Quetta-Chaman highway linking the country with Afghanistan, resulting in a long queue of trucks laden with goods, footage aired by private news channels showed.

“The roads are already blocked with our workers but we are going to sit with them,” said Qutb-ud-Din, one of the many party supporters dismantling the makeshift tent camp in Islamabad. “We are going to begin Plan B.”

Some 150 demonstrators also reportedly blocked a highway in the southern Sindh province.