Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed big crowds at a rallies/" 1014 target="_blank">political rally Saturday for the first time since being wounded earlier this month while leading a march toward the capital, Islamabad.

Since being ousted in a vote of no confidence in April, Khan has led supporters on marches to Islamabad, resulting in clashes with police and road blocks. 

However, Khan canceled a new protest march slated for Saturday, heeding warnings that leading his supporters to the capital would unleash more turmoil. He also mentioned his leg would take another three months to heal.

Khan arrived by helicopter Saturday evening in Rawalpindi, located just to the south of Islamabad and home to Pakistan’s powerful military, before making his way to the rally site where large crowds waited for his arrival.

“I have decided not to go to Islamabad because I know there will be havoc and the loss will be to the country,” Khan said as he addressed a gathering of thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Khan said in his speech that neither he nor party members were holding the rally for “elections or politics” and reiterated calls for snap elections, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.

He also announced that his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is discussing the possibility of resigning from all provincial assemblies so that they can push for the early election. His party has already resigned from the parliamentary posts but is in power in two provinces and two administrative units.

Khan demands early elections

Khan was shot in the lower leg earlier this month and claims his political opponents orchestrated the attack.

Since April, Khan’s PTI party is demanding the government hold snap elections, claiming Khan’s ouster was illegitimate. 

Khan has accused current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif of having had him removed with the US government’s help. Sharif has rejected the accusation and Khan’s demand for early elections, saying parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled sometime in the second half of 2023.

Imran Khan's supporters pile on a truck
Khan’s supporters head to the rally Image: PPI/Zumapress/picture alliance

Pakistani government issues security warning 

Since Khan’s ouster, Pakistan has fallen into political turmoil, with his supporters blocking roads in cities across the country and clashing with police.

Khan has continued to appeal to supporters, staging a series of mass rallies across Pakistan, which have drawn huge crowds.

“My life is in danger, and despite being injured I am going to Rawalpindi for the nation,”  the PTI quoted Khan as saying prior to the rally.

Imran Khan in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg
Khan was shot during a rally earlier in NovemberImage: K.M. Chaudary/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday had issued a “red alert” warning over security threats during Khan’s planned rally in Rawalpindi. 

Without offering evidence, Khan has blamed the attack on him earlier this month on Sharif and two other senior government officials, one of them being Sanaullah.

Saturday’s rally takes place two days after the Pakistani government named the country’s former spy chief as the next military chief.

rm/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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