ISLAMABAD – Cricketer-turned-politicianImran Khan today said that he will hold “the biggest rally in Pakistan’s history” on August 14 to protest against last year’s general election which he alleges was rigged leading to his party’s defeat.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) lost the 2013 polls to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He has been demanding a recount of votes in several constituencies where his supported candidates failed to win.
Addressing a press conference in the capital, the PTI chief said that he had been agitating for the last 14 months but the government refused to address his grievances. Khan said organised rigging took place in at least 90 seats of the National Assembly, lower house of Pakistan’s Parliament.
“August 14 will see the biggest rally of history and we will force the government to accept our demands,” he said. He said the present system was not democratic as the people’s mandate was stolen. He said he would present evidence of the electoral rigging on August 11. Khan said that his party-backed candidates have failed to get justice despite spending millions of rupees to investigate what happened in the elections.
His call for protest has already created panic in the government which has called the army under Article 245 of the constitution to maintain law and order in the capital. The clear objectives of Khan’s protest are not known and many consider it an attempt to topple the elected government. The fears have been compounded by a similar announcement by Lahore-based cleric Tahirul Qadri to launch a protest for revolution on August 14 to pull down the government.
Qadri, a dual national, last month returned from Canada. He is a fiery speaker and commands thousands of supporters, most of them associated with his religious organisation Minhajul Quran and various educational institutions run by him.
It is believed that Khan and Qadri have a tacit understanding to bring their thousands of supporters to Islamabad to force the government to announce snap polls. Sharif on his part has started meeting with political leaders to handle the situation.
Today he met veteran politician and tribal chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai and discussed the political situation. There are reports that Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan also had telephonic talks with Imran Khan to convince him to cancel the protest but the PTI chief refused.