Imran Khan: Former Pakistani PM attends first rally since shooting

2 months ago 146

Imran Khan walks through a crowd on his way to deliver a speechImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

Mr Khan was seen walking to deliver a speech, after suffering gunshot injuries to his leg three weeks ago

By Samira Hussain & James FitzGerald

BBC News, Rawalpindi & London

Pakistan's ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken to hundreds of thousands of supporters, in his first public appearance since being shot at and injured three weeks ago.

Crowds gathered for a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, taking flags and signs.

The former cricket star urged them to live without fear of death.

One person was killed and several others injured during the attack earlier this month, which unfolded as Mr Khan led a similar event.

The former PM was injured in his right leg and underwent surgery. He has accused members of the current government of plotting the attack, in Wazirabad.

Authorities have rejected the accusation and released a video purporting to show a confession from a man they describe as the only suspect in the shooting.

At the rally in Rawalpindi, Mr Khan's supporters erupted in cheers when he appeared after a delay of several hours.

One woman told the BBC she had come because Mr Khan's cause was that of the people of Pakistan, not of himself. "I am here for a leader who is supporting us," she said.

"There is one man only who has been raising his voice against all the establishment," a man in the crowd said. "He is here to look forward, he has given us a vision."

The atmosphere was jovial despite heightened security, with crowds chanting slogans in support of the former prime minister and popular Pakistani songs blaring out from loudspeakers.

Mr Khan alleged that "three criminals" were waiting to make another attempt on his life.

But, he told supporters, "fear makes an entire nation into slaves".

During his speech, he also admitted failures in tackling corruption during his premiership - saying he "failed in bringing the powerful under the law".

The event was described as the climax of Mr Khan's "long march" - a series of rallies during which he has been demanding early elections.

Beforehand, authorities put up roadblocks and urged him to call off the rally - citing the risk of violence.

Workers were pictured installing a bulletproof glass shield on the stage.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Thousands of Mr Khan's supporters attended the rally

The former international cricket star was removed from office earlier this year after losing a confidence vote in parliament. He was later disqualified from holding public office.

He has been accused of failing to accurately declare details of presents he received and sold off while in office - including Rolex watches, a ring and cuff links.

Mr Khan denies any wrongdoing and describes the case against him as politically motivated.

Following his ejection from office, he has become a vocal critic of Pakistan's government and its powerful military leadership.

Mr Khan remains very popular in the country and attracts large turnouts at his rallies.

The government has repeatedly said it will hold a national poll next year, as planned.

Pakistan has a long history of deadly political violence. In the most high-profile case, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a public rally in 2007.

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