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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Khan calls on his party to quit all assemblies

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ISLAMABAD – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies, as it made its first public appearance since being injured in a gun attack on fire at the beginning of the month.

Khan, a former cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. He is now in opposition and is calling for a snap election, saying his ousting was illegal and orchestrated by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, with help from the US government. Sharif and Washington have dismissed the allegations and the current government has said the next polls will be held as scheduled in 2023.

Khan launched a protest march late last month from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad as part of his campaign for a snap election, but gave up personally leading the convoy after he was injured by a gunman who opened fire on his vehicle. One of Khan’s supporters was killed and 13 were injured in the attack. The shooter was arrested.

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

He told tens of thousands of his enthusiastic supporters that his Tehreek-e-Insaf party was quitting 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, although most resignations have yet to be accepted. Khan’s stronghold is in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and leaving the Punjab assembly would give 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 7th-century Shiite leader Imam Hussain.

Towards the end of his speech, he backtracked on his demand for a snap election, saying his party would win elections due in nine months. He also declared that he would no longer march on the capital.

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

He said he would meet with his top ministers and parliamentary party and announce the timing of the exit.

The rally came days after the appointment of a new army chief, Asim Munir, who ran the country’s spy agency during Khan’s tenure but was fired without an explanation from the prime minister. ‘era.

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

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari described Khan’s rally on Saturday night as a “face-saving flopshow”.

He said in a tweet: ‘Unable to draw revolutionary crowds, failed to undermine new leader appointments, frustrated, resorts to resignation drama.’

washingtonpost Gt

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