Imran Khan has warned the government he will march with millions into the capital unless elections are held in six days
Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan warned the country's government on Thursday that he will march on the capital with millions of people in six days unless provincial assemblies are dissolved and new elections are held by that time.
Khan issued the ultimatum during a rally of thousands of demonstrators in Islamabad, where he called for the "imported government" to be brought down, insisting it is backed by foreign powers.
A former cricket star-turned-politician, Khan served as Pakistan's prime minister for over three and a half years before being ousted in a no-confidence vote by parliament last month. He insists that his removal from office was orchestrated by the US in collusion with members of the current government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Khan has suggested that he received threats from US officials over his refusal to bow to Washington's demands and support the sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
Since his ousting, Khan has staged several rallies across the country, calling on "all Pakistanis" to take to the streets to "send a message across Pakistan that the nation has rejected this imported government."
On Wednesday, Khan stated that he would take part in a sit-in demonstration in the center of Islamabad along with thousands of supporters until his demands are met. However, on Thursday morning, after the authorities called in the military to protect the city center, he said he would leave Islamabad, threatening to return with "the whole nation" in six days if new elections are not held.
He went on to accuse the government of taking the nation "towards anarchy" and trying to create a divide between the people and the police.
"I had decided that I will sit here until the government dissolves assemblies and announces elections, but of what I have seen in the past 24 hours, they (government) are taking the nation towards anarchy," he was quoted as saying by Dawn news website.
Khan condemned the government for trying to silence and intimidate peaceful protesters by raiding their homes and arresting people who took part in his party's march.
"Government has tried every method to crush our Azadi March, they used teargas on peaceful protest, our homes were raided and privacy of the homes were violated; however, I have seen the nation free itself of fear of slavery," he said.
Khan noted that three protesters lost their lives during demonstrations in Karachi, while two others were thrown off a bridge and thousands of others were arrested after some of the demonstrations in the country turned violent.
On Wednesday, the ousted PM called on his supporters to assemble at D-Chowk - a town square located near several vital government buildings - and to not vacate the square until the 'imported government' announces new elections.
After thousands of protesters started pouring in, the government of Pakistan authorized the deployment of military troops to protect its headquarters in the capital. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah tweeted that the army will be deployed to protect key government buildings in Islamabad's Red Zone, such as the Supreme Court, Parliament House, and diplomatic enclaves like the US Embassy.
The government headed by Prime Minister Sharif had pledged to stop Khan's supporters from entering the capital, calling their rally an attempt to "divide the nation and promote chaos." The authorities even set up dozens of shipping containers and cargo trucks to block the roads to Islamabad ahead of Wednesday's marches.
"Politics of dharna [sit-in] is detrimental to progress and stability," Sharif tweeted on Wednesday.