Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan has announced plans to “shut down’ several cities and the entire country in phases, in a bid to turn up the heat on the federal government.
Addressing tens of thousands of his supporters at a rally in Islamabad on Sunday, he said his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), would “shut down” Lahore on December 4, Faisalabad on December 8, Karachi on December 12 and the entire country on December 16.
The “shutdowns” would mark “the next phase” in his ongoing protests against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government.
“You are saying that there is a lot of economic damage done since the sit-in began […] but [Nawaz Sharif] we haven’t done anything yet. What I will start from December 4, that will cause you real damage, and it will make it difficult for you to run the government. This is our right,” Khan said in his speech.
He renewed his calls for investigations into election rigging allegations, and said that his sit-in protest outside parliament, which entered its 109th day on Sunday, would also continue alongside these “shut down” protests.
Khan alleges that the PML-N rigged the 2013 general elections, which saw his party win 34 seats, against the PML-N’s 189 seats, in the 342-seat national assembly.
“The ball is in your court [PM Sharif]. Make a decision, solve the issue, carry out investigations,” Khan said. “Settle the election results in four to six weeks. […] what I will do after the shutdowns, you won’t be able to survive it.”
Security was tight in the capital, with more than 15,000 police and security forces personnel deployed around the area where the rally was being held, which is in the heart of Islamabad’s government district.