Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s party to quit legislative assemblies

Imran Khan

NEW DELHI – Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan said his party will quit all the legislative assemblies as he continues his campaign to force an early general election.

Addressing a large gathering in Rawalpindi city on Saturday evening, Imran said he has decided against the planned march on the capital Islamabad due to fears of further turmoil. 

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It was Imran’s first attendance at a public rally since he survived an assassination attempt on Nov 3. 

During his speech lasting more than an hour, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader appeared not to have lost his usual oratorical charm although at times he looked in pain due to the bullet injuries in his right leg.

Imran said it could take three months for the wounds to heal.

Before the murder attempt in Punjab province’s Wazirabad area disrupted it, Imran’s “long march”, which started in Lahore city on Oct 28, was to climax into a major show of strength this month in Islamabad.

The former prime minister has asserted the current federal government formed in April following his ouster in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence lacks a popular mandate to rule.

Imran has addressed more than 60 mass rallies in seven months during which he has blamed his ouster on a United States-backed regime change conspiracy, railed against corruption and abuse of power, and applauded his government’s success on the economic front and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Imran told the rally in Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad, that a decision was taken not to enter the capital as this could create a situation of anarchy.

“I assure you, they (government) cannot handle it, they can deploy as many police as they want. When hundreds of thousands of people enter Islamabad, no one can stop them,” he said.

As the crowds cheered him, Imran told them he had chosen another route to continue his campaign for “Haqeeqi Azadi” (true freedom).

“We have decided not to be a part of this corrupt system,” Imran said, adding that he will meet the chief ministers of the PTI-led provinces and parliamentary party to discuss leaving the legislative assemblies.

“We’ll quit all the assemblies,” he said.

His party has four regional governments, including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, which is home to more than half of Pakistan’s 220 million population.

PTI members resigned en masse from the federal parliament after the party’s government fell seven months ago.

The party’s exit from provincial assemblies will build further public pressure for holding new nationwide elections. – Bernama