Pakistan asks former PM Khan to delay sit-in citing attack threat

Imran Khan and his supporters are to gather in Rawalpindi on Saturday after an attack on their march this month injured Khan.

People chant slogans as they condemn the shooting incident on a long march held by Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Wazirabad, Pakistan
Imran Khan's supporters condemn the attack on him in November [Akhtar Soomro/ Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s interior minister has asked former Prime Minister Imran Khan to postpone a planned sit-in in Rawalpindi on Saturday, citing the threat of attacks.

“My advice to Imran Khan is to postpone the gathering as our intelligence agencies have informed us that any armed individual or armed groups may try to exploit the situation and target the crowd,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said at a news conference on Friday.

Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is currently in Lahore, recovering from an apparent assassination attempt.

On November 3, he was shot and wounded in the leg in Wazirabad, a city in the eastern province of Punjab, while leading a protest march on the capital to demand early elections. The current National Assembly’s term ends in October.

The march began on October 28 in Lahore but was paused after the attack. Khan has since been addressing his supporters daily via video link. This past weekend, he told them to gather in Rawalpindi on Saturday. 

PTI supporters are currently driving from across the country towards Rawalpindi. Khan was also scheduled to leave on Saturday for what is expected to be a large political gathering.

Meanwhile, the interior minister said he has ordered the government to ensure participants’ security.

Khan was removed as prime minister in April in a vote of no-confidence in parliament. He has since led nationwide rallies but has refused to attend parliament, alleging that the government is made up of corrupt leaders.

“If you won’t come, then you will be responsible for everything, including inflation, economic turmoil and political turmoil,” Sanaullah said, asking Khan to consider returning to parliament. “Stop being stubborn and come do politics instead.”

PTI official Musarrat Jamshed Cheema said morale was high in the party and a record turnout is expected in Rawalpindi.

“It is going to be the largest gathering in our history,” she told Al Jazeera from Lahore. “This will be the first time Imran Khan will appear in public after [the] attack on his life, and we are expecting [a] monumental crowd as people are extremely driven and passionate for their leader.”

Cheema said the PTI has a singular agenda, which is to hold early elections. “It is a peaceful struggle and nothing else,” she said, calling the rally “a soft revolution of sorts”.

Khan will reveal the party’s future plans, she said.

“His speech will determine our next course of action. If he asks us to do a sit-in, we will,” Cheema added.

Source: Al Jazeera