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Home World News Washington Post World News Former Pakistani Prime Minister Khan says his party must suspend all meetings

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Khan says his party must suspend all meetings

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ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan said on Saturday his party would leave the country’s regional and national assemblies as he made his first public appearance since being injured in a gun attack earlier this month.

Khan, a former cricketer turned politician, was ousted in April in a vote of no confidence in parliament. He is now in the opposition demanding an early election, claiming his ouster was illegal and orchestrated by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, with the help of the US government. Sharif and Washington have rejected the allegations and the current administration says the next polls will take place in 2023 as planned.

Khan launched a protest march from the eastern city of Lahore towards Islamabad late last month as part of his early polling campaign, but stopped personally leading the convoy after being wounded by a gunman who opened fire on his vehicle. One of Khan’s supporters was killed and 13 injured in the attack. The shooter was arrested.

On Saturday evening, in the town of Rawalpindi near Islamabad, Khan rejoined the protest march.

He told tens of thousands of his cheering supporters that his Tehreek-e-Insaf party was leaving all regional and national assemblies and getting out of this “corrupt system.”

His party resigned en masse from the national assembly in April ahead of a vote to elect a new prime minister, though most of the resignations have yet to be accepted. Khan’s stronghold is in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and leaving the Punjab assembly would hand over power to his rivals.

The politician spoke for more than an hour, including references to Sufi mystic Rumi, the fall of the Soviet Union and seventh-century Shia leader Imam Hussain.

Towards the end of his speech, he made a U-turn on his demand for an early election, saying his party would win the polls scheduled for nine months. He also said he would no longer march to the capital.

“They (government) cannot handle a march in Islamabad, they can call as many police as they want, but they cannot stop the hundreds of thousands from entering Islamabad,” Khan said. “We could have created a situation like Sri Lanka. I have decided not to march to Islamabad because I do not want anarchy in the country. I don’t want to harm this country.”

After months of protests over an economic crisis that has resulted in shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine, thousands of Sri Lankans stormed the president’s residence in July, forcing then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee and later resign.

Khan said he will meet his prime ministers and parliamentary party and announce the timing of the departure.

The meeting came days after the appointment of a new army chief, Asim Munir, who headed the country’s spy service during Khan’s tenure but was sacked with no explanation from the then prime minister.

Munir replaces General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who also accused Khan of playing a role in his ouster. Bajwa denies the allegation.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari described Khan’s Saturday evening rally as a “face-saving flop show”.

He said in a tweet: “Unable to attract revolution mob, failed to undermine new leadership appointments, frustrated, resorts to resignation drama.”



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