Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s party resumes ‘long march’ to capital

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

Islamabad, Pakistan – Thousands of supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are holding a “long march” to the national capital to demand the removal of the government and immediate elections.

After a weeklong pause due to an assassination attempt on Khan, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Thursday resumed the march to Islamabad from Wazirabad city in Punjab province.

Khan, 70, sustained bullet wounds in his leg during a rally in Wazirabad on November 3. He will be addressing the march later on Thursday via a video link from his residence in Lahore where he is recuperating.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the cricketing icon-turned-politician said he 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.

The military issued a strong rebuke, calling Khan’s allegation “baseless and irresponsible”. Sharif’s government 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) into the attack on Monday, five days after the incident. The report did not include any of the accused named by Khan.

In an interview to 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.

March for ‘real freedom’

Khan’s PTI announced the “long march” to Islamabad will resume on Thursday from the same spot in Wazirabad where the attack on Khan took place.

Party leader Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that Khan’s address will be beamed on a video screen during the march for “real freedom”.

Another party official Musarrat Jamshed Cheema said the plan is to ensure the gathering ends before sunset so that the security for the attendees is not compromised.

“We have arranged to show Imran Khan’s speech from a video screen that will start at 4.30pm and end by 5pm to ensure we do not make any compromises on security,” she told Al Jazeera.

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 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.

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

Khan was removed from office in April after he lost a parliamentary vote of confidence. Since then, he has been holding public rallies to demand snap elections, due in late 2023.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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