Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan yesterday warned the government to stage fresh elections or face more mass protests, after leading thousands of supporters to the capital Islamabad in a showdown with his political rivals.
His morning address was the culmination of a chaotic 24 hours which saw the capital blockaded and clashes break out between police and protesters across the country.
The government had attempted to prevent the convoy from reaching the capital by shutting down all entry and exit points around the city, but was forced to allow in protesters by an emergency Supreme Court order.
Since being removed from power through a no-confidence vote last month, cricket star-turned-politician Khan has heaped pressure on the country’s fragile new coalition rulers by staging rallies, touting a claim he was ousted from office in a “foreign conspiracy”.
“I want to give a message to this imported government to announce elections within six days. Dissolve the assemblies and call an election in June,” he said to a crowd of thousands who later dispersed. He warned that he would return to the capital with his supporters next week if elections were not scheduled.
“We will not accept his dictation,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told parliament yesterday afternoon. “When elections are to be held, it will be decided by this house.”
“If he thinks he will blackmail us, he is mistaken.”
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 political analysts said Khan’s attempt to stage a historic sit-in was a failure, with smaller numbers than expected hobbling his bargaining power.