Pakistan’s ex-PM Imran Khan issues ultimatum on elections after mass rally

ISLAMABAD: Deposed Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan The government warned on Thursday that it was about to hold new elections or face more massive protests, after leading thousands of supporters to the capital Islamabad in a duel with political rivals. he.
His morning speech was the culmination of 24 hours of chaos that saw the capital locked down and clashes erupted between police and protesters across the country.
The government tried to stop the convoy from reaching the capital by closing all entry and exit points around the city, but was forced to allow protesters under an emergency order from the Supreme Court.
Since being stripped of power through a vote of no confidence last month, cricket star turned politician Khan has put pressure on the country’s fragile new coalition rulers by organizing organized mass protests, claiming that he was ousted because of a “foreign conspiracy”.
“I want to send a message to this importing government to announce elections within six days. Dissolve the councils and call an election in June,” he said, to a crowd of thousands. People.
He warned that he would return to the stage for a new rally next week if elections were not scheduled and urged his supporters to disperse.
The coalition government, which believes the country’s two often hostile dynastic parties have banded together to push Khan out of power, has repeatedly said it has no plans to hold an election.
Thousands of supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party heeded his call to march to the capital from nearby cities on Wednesday.
But confrontations broke out between police and protesters, who tried to remove barricades on key highways to join the convoy.
Police repeatedly used tear gas on protesters in the capital as well as the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi.
The Pakistan Human Rights Commission said it was “deeply concerned by the willingness of law enforcement agencies” to disrupt the march.
“The state’s overreaction has caused, more than it has prevented, violence in the streets,” it tweeted.
The government is headed by the prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has pledged to block protesters from entering the capital, calling the rally an attempt to “split the nation and fuel chaos”.
But as choas were raging across the country, the Supreme Court granted PTI permission to hold the protest on the edge of the city.
The court also ordered the government and PTI leaders to hold emergency talks on the political crisis and release supporters detained by police.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said more than 1,700 people have been arrested since police began raiding the homes of PTI supporters on Monday night.
Khan joined the march in dramatic style, as a helicopter touched down on a highway congested by supporters at his power base in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The international sports hero came to power in 2018, elected by a dynastic electorate of the country’s two major parties and enjoying the backing of the nation’s powerful military.
Promising to wipe out the corruption and cronyism that had entrenched for decades, he is said to have fallen out of favor with Pakistan’s generals.
He was brought down by opposition parties in part due to his failure to correct the country’s dire economic situation, which includes mounting debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.
But Khan still enjoys popular support across the country, especially among young people.

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