Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan asked the public to “wait for his call” to march towards Islamabad to demand early elections.
“I’m not giving a call just to the PTI [supporters] but all Pakistanis. You all have to prepare in the streets, cities and villages. And wait for my call when I call you to Islamabad. I want to make it clear that I don’t want a confrontation,” Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman said.
Khan asked his supporters to prepare for the next demonstration in Islamabad while addressing a gathering of an estimated half a million people at Lahore’s iconic Minar-i-Pakistan monument that symbolises the beginning of the country’s freedom struggle. Khan vowed to put the country on the path to achieving “real independence and democracy.”
PTI chairman has vowed to protest until fresh elections are announced. Khan reiterated that he would “never accept the imported government” and described the new government as “selected,” saying his political rivals were afraid of elections.
The Lahore rally is the third major public rally after massive demonstrations in Peshawar and Karachi since Imran Khan’s ouster. Tens of thousands of people have marched in several cities of Pakistan in a show of support for the cricketer-turned-politician. Youth dominated the crowds while a large number of women, children and families have been seen at the protests in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
Khan became the first prime minister in Pakistan’s history to be ousted via a vote of no-confidence on April 10. The former premier alleged the no-confidence campaign to oust him was backed by the US since he was pursuing an “independent foreign policy.”
PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that some elements were “trying to get Khan disqualified through the Election Commission of Pakistan and ban PTI from participating in elections” citing the foreign funding case. In his speech, Imran Khan accused Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja of being biased against the PTI and demanded simultaneous accountability of the funding of all political parties.
PTI leaders also rejected the current government’s offer of creating a commission to probe the letter gate controversy that the previous government said amounted to “blatant interference in internal affairs” of Pakistan. “We will only accept one commission that is in the Supreme Court,” Khan said, adding that the issue should be raised in an open hearing of the apex court.
Khan became the first Pakistani leader who went live on all media platforms simultaneously to connect with his supporters on April 20. In a live Twitter Spaces session that attracted record 165,000 listeners, Khan talked about the importance of rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a strong military.