Imran Khan addresses during an anti-government rally, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 26, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Former prime minister Imran Khan gave the government six days to dissolve assemblies and announce elections and warned that he would return to the capital city if the elections were not announced.

“I am giving you [government] six days, if you don’t announce elections, I will come back to Islamabad again with all Pakistanis,” Khan said as he addressed a rally on Islamabad’s Jinnah Avenue before ending his protest.

“Government has tried every method to crush our Azadi [freedom] March, they used teargas on peaceful protest, our homes were raided and privacy of the homes were violated,” Khan said.

“But today, I have seen the nation free itself of fear of repression.”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman said he was determined to stage a sit-in until the election date was announced but decided to end it, claiming that the government was trying to create a divide between the people and police and army. “What I have seen in the past 24 hours, they (government) are taking the nation towards anarchy,” he said.

PTI leaders said defended Khan’s decision saying it was “a clear political and moral victory for PTI.” Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said that “Imran Khan has again proven himself bigger than these other political dwarves. And he has kept the interests of Pakistan above his own.”

Clashes, arrests and deaths

Pakistani police fired teargas, baton-charged and detained hundreds of supporters of Khan to stop them from reaching the capital to demand fresh elections. However, thousands of Khan’s supporters reached Islamabad by Wednesday night overcoming hurdles on roads where the authorities had placed hundreds of shipping containers and trucks to block off major roads into the capital city and deployed thousands of police officials all over the country.

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More than 1,700 Khan supporters were arrested during 4,400 police raids on homes, offices and protest rallies, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said. The minister said no one had been stopped from exercising his or her constitutional and legal right to hold a rally or take part in democratic politics, “but we can’t allow anyone to sow violence and chaos.”

Intense tear gas shelling and clashes between police and protestors continued throughout the day on May 25 in several cities particularly Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Five PTI protesters were killed. One of the protestors fell off Attock bridge amid tear-gas shelling and the other was pushed into the Ravi river, PTI said.

PTI protestors, including women and children, faced hours of relentless tear gas shelling by Islamabad police at D Chowk in Islamabad. Pakistan’s coalition government led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ordered troop deployment in Islamabad to protect major government buildings and important installations after Imran Khan arrived in the capital with a convoy of thousands of supporters.