Pakistan’s defiant former Prime Minister Imran Khan has called on his supporters to march peacefully on Islamabad on May 25th, to press for fresh elections.
Khan, who served as prime minister for more than three and a half years, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament by an alliance of all major political parties.
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Since his removal, Khan has addressed rallies in several cities as he mobilises for a grand show of strength in the capital on Wednesday.
“We will never accept [the new government] – no matter how long we have to remain in Islamabad, we will remain there,” Khan told reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Sunday.
Khan’s call came after a marathon session of talks with leaders from his Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Peshawar. He describes the march as a move to protect the country’s sovereignty, as he alleges that the vote that removed him was a United States-organised plot.
In his speech, Khan urged authorities not to oppose the march, which will gain strength outside of Islamabad before heading to the city centre.
Once in the city, the former prime minister said, his supporters will remain until parliament is dissolved and new elections are called. Thousands have come to his rallies in the past.
Khan claims the US wanted him removed from office because of his foreign policy choices in favour of Russia and China, and because of a visit he made on February 24 to Moscow, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin – as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. He has also said the US dislikes his strident criticism of Washington’s “war on terror“.
The US Department of State has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics.
Khan came to power in 2018 promising to eradicate corruption and revive Pakistan’s economy, but he failed to deliver on most of his pledges.
He has nonetheless been able to draw huge crowds at rallies since his removal from office.