Ex-Pakistan PM vows to ‘keep up fight’ as ‘long march’ resumes

The march to demand immediate elections was paused for a week following an assassination attempt on Khan.

Pakistan long march
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan pictured during an earlier march, in Lahore, Pakistan [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to continue his fight for “real freedom” until his last breath as thousands of his supporters joined a “long march” to the capital Islamabad demanding snap elections.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Thursday resumed the march to Islamabad from Wazirabad city in Punjab province a week after the former prime minister was shot at in an assassination attempt.

“I will reach Rawalpindi and I invite you all to come and march with us because it is a matter of the future of the country and the future of your children,” he said in a video address lasting less than 20 minutes, his first since he was wounded in the gun attack in Wazirabad on November 3.

The march is part of Khan’s efforts to galvanise support against his removal from office in a no-confidence motion in April. He has alleged that Pakistan’s then-opposition parties colluded with the United States to unseat him from power.

Since then, he has been holding public rallies to demand snap elections, which are not due until late 2023.

The former prime minister has, however, not provided any proof of the conspiracy allegation, and both Washington and the Pakistan political parties now in power have denied the accusations.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the cricketing icon-turned-politician said he had discovered an alleged plot to assassinate him two months ago. He said he will disclose the name of a second military official allegedly involved in the plot during his address to supporters participating in the “long march”.

Speaking from his hospital bed last week, Khan had accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and army officer Major General Faisal Naseer of hatching the plot to kill him.

In an address from the eastern city of Lahore, Khan repeated his earlier allegations, saying Major General Naseer was “the mastermind” of the attack.

The military has denied any role in the attack and called Khan’s allegation “baseless and irresponsible”. Sharif’s government has also rejected the charge, with the prime minister on Tuesday writing a letter to the country’s top judge to form a judicial commission to investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, the Punjab police filed a first information report (FIR) on the attack on Monday, five days after the incident. The report did not include any of the accused named by Khan.

In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan on Wednesday, Khan alleged there were two plots to “bump him off”.

“The first plot was when four people decided to bump me off. I found out because I was the head of the intelligence agencies for three and a half years,” Khan told Morgan, without providing more details.

Khan said a second plot was hatched in September. “Again I found out from within the intelligence agencies because people are appalled at what is going on,” he said.

From Lahore, where is he recuperating from the wound, Khan further said that the country is fast becoming a “banana republic” which has “no rule of law”.

He urged Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to intervene as “the nation does not have trust in institutions anymore”.

“You have a big responsibility; the entire nation is looking at you. Even an ex-prime minister cannot register a FIR, which is his right,” he said, referring to the delay in the FIR after the assassination attempt.

March for ‘real freedom’

Earlier, PTI leader Musarrat Jamshed Cheema said the party leadership met on Wednesday night to discuss the modalities of the march, adding that Khan will make a daily address.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government, headed by a PTI ally, said it has increased security for the participants of the march.

A statement issued by the office of the province’s Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said the march will be surveilled using drones and security cameras, while more than 15,000 police officers will be deployed for protection.

“We had snipers placed earlier as well but now we have increased the number of officers deployed on the ground and along the route of the march. We have added day-to-day vigilance to make sure no repeat of last week’s incident takes place,” government official Omar Sarfaraz Cheema told Al Jazeera.

The Punjab government has also agreed to form a joint team to investigate the attack on Khan.

Muhammad Asim Khan, a PTI official in Peshawar, said the party has planned rallies across the country. “We have different rallies planned across the provinces, which will be addressed by provincial leaders. We have also put screens to show Imran Khan’s speech,” he told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera