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Dispatch to Pakistan: Ex-PM Khan addresses Rawalpindi rally in latest push for new elections after assassination attempt – JURIST


Law students and law graduates from Pakistan report for JURIST on events in that country that impact its legal system. Here, Eisha Chaudhry, a law student from Islamabad pursuing her LL.B. program at the University of London, reflects on remarks by former Prime Minister Imran Khan last weekend at a mass rally in Rawalpindi at the end of his True Freedom March calling for snap elections.

Opposition leader and former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation on Saturday from the garrison town of Rawalpindi at the climax of the Haqeeqi Azaadi (True Freedom March) march in his first public appearance since surviving an assassination attempt in early November.

Khan has spoken at more than 60 rallies in the seven months since his ousting, galvanizing support and demanding fresh, snap elections. He started his long 2.0 march to Islamabad on October 28 and joined it three weeks after being shot in the leg in the city of Wazirabad on November 3. A PTI supporter was killed and more than a dozen others injured in the attack which was initially believed to be religiously motivated.

The real culprits

Speaking to France 24’s Marc Perelman, Khan said he knew exactly what happened and predicted it more than six weeks ago when they (the government) accused me for the first time. [of blasphemy]. A video was made to accuse me…then it was picked up by this government spokesman, government controlled television and six weeks ago I said this was all set up for me murder through a religious fanatic. He elaborated, the two, Prime Minister (Shehbaz Sharif) and Minister of the Interior (Rana Sanaullah) whom I named, we have known their past for thirty years. Both were implicated in extrajudicial executions. Both were involved in what is known as the Model Town Massacre where they had twelve protesters shot and around 60 injured. He also appointed a senior military official to plot his assassination. Sharif denied any involvement, calling for a transparent investigation.

Objectively, the attack appears to be an open and closed affair as it came weeks after PML-N member Javed Latif followed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah used the religious card to slander Imran Khan. This narrative has been actively constructed and propagated by the government. The alternative scenario remains that the attacker was aggravated by the constructed narrative that prompted him to carry out a self-defense attack. In both cases, the government cannot escape its responsibility.

The threat persists

Khan gave his speech while seated behind bulletproof glass, but the threat to his life remains. A senior Pakistani judge, citing an intelligence report, said on Friday that the life of former Prime Minister Imran Khan was in danger due to fears of another assassination attempt on the politician. Aamer Farooq, Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court, made the remarks while hearing a petition filed by a traders’ body regarding road closures in the nation’s capital during political protests. A police official told local broadcaster Geo TV that a total of 10,000 people had been deployed for the event, with snipers positioned at various locations for its security.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, whom Khan accuses of involvement in the assassination plot, issued a red alert on Friday, warning of security threats to the gathering. He listed the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda among the extremist groups that could harm Khan.

What does Khan want now?

Acclaimed cricketer-turned-populist Khan has said his party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI), is quitting national and regional assemblies, in yet another attempt to push for a snap election: he has stated adamantly that his party no was not going to be part of this corrupt system. After Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April following a political outcry over his involvement in the Toshakhana gift scandal, the Khans party resigned en masse from the federal parliament, although most resignations have not yet been accepted. He remains in power, however, in four regional governments, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, the longtime stronghold of the Sharif PML-N party and home to more than half of Pakistan’s 220 million people.

Khan inspires sectarian devotion in his followers and is widely regarded as Pakistan’s most popular leader in the country’s 75-year history. Imran Khan hailed the Rawalpindi rally as a defining moment, adding that Pakistan stands at the crossroads of slavery or freedom akin to colonialism and the freedom that only a snap election will secure in the country. . Imran announced that he would not continue the march towards Islamabad in order to avoid creating a situation of anarchy in the capital. “I assure you they (the government) cannot handle this, they can deploy as many police as they want. When hundreds of thousands of people enter Islamabad, no one can stop them,” he said. -he declares.

After being close to death, he also said he would fight to the last drop of blood to ensure freedom and the rule of law in the country. Khan insists that if an early national vote is called, he will win by an overwhelming majority. However, towards the end of his more than hour-long speech, he apparently did an about-face, saying that if the elections are held in nine months when they were originally scheduled, his party will once again form the government. He also backtracked by blaming the United States for his ouster; in a recent interview with Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, Khan said he was ready to walk away from the controversy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over, it’s behind me. The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relations with everyone, especially the United States, he said.

Contrary to expectations, Khan raised no public objections when the Sharif government last Thursday appointed a new army chief, Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, even though there was a history of bad blood between both. While Khan was prime minister in 2018, he forced the military to abruptly remove Munir as head of the national intelligence agency so he could install a general he preferred.

In a warm-up speech at the Saturday rally, veteran politician Sheikh Rasheed and the head of the PTI made it clear that we salute and congratulate the new army leadership. He said, this is our army. It’s the Pakistani army. This is Imran Khan’s army.

Yet the military faces the difficult prospect of helping bring Imran Khan into line with the government, while resisting public backlash against its interference in civilian affairs and alleged involvement in the Khan assassination attempt. Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington, says: It will take time to restore public trust, but it will also come under immediate pressure to ease political instability and reduce tensions between the government and the khan. That’s a lot of tough terrain to navigate.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari described the Khans rally on Saturday night as a face-saving flop show. In a tweet he said: Unable to attract revolutionary crowds, failed to undermine new leader appointments, frustrated, resorts to resignation drama.

Yet Imran Khan’s popularity cannot be denied, nor his oratorical charm, and it is clear that the nation regards him even more as a national hero after his injury on behalf of his cause.




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