ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s embattled former Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a fresh call for snap elections as tens of thousands of his supporters gathered in the eastern city of Lahore until the early hours on Sunday.
The leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party addressed the massive crowd from a bulletproof container, the latest in a series of nationwide protests that the former premier has led since he was removed from power in a no-confidence vote in April last year.
Khan — who is facing dozens of cases, with charges against him ranging from terrorism to sedition — made another call for early elections, alleging at the rally that began on Saturday that the Pakistani establishment is behind a crackdown on PTI and trying to get him disqualified from politics.
“Only someone with a public mandate can make difficult decisions, someone who came through the vote of the people, whom the people trust in,” he said.
“A party that would form a government through a public mandate, through the vote of the public — that would be the first step.
“When a government would come for five years, then the people, the business community would have the confidence that there’s political stability.”
Khan laid out his economic recovery plan to “save” Pakistan, where inflation has risen to more than 46 percent, an all-time high.
The South Asian country of 220 million people is also reeling from dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a ballooning current account deficit.
Khan’s plan, which focuses on increasing exports and investment, also relies on fixing the government, which he said will help improve the investment climate in the country and bring in more dollars.
“Dollars flow in with increasing exports, but we never tried it,” he said. “We’ll divert the whole country toward exports. Whoever would bring dollars to the country by selling goods, they’ll be provided facilities.”
Since his removal from office, Khan has accused the recently retired Pakistani military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, of orchestrating his ouster in collaboration with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a US-backed “foreign conspiracy.” All three have denied the allegations.
“I ask Pakistan’s establishment: This is clear you’ve decided ... we won’t let Imran Khan win,” Khan said.
“Fine, don’t let (me) come to power, but tell (me) do you have any program to steer the country out of this destruction? Is there a roadmap?”