Islamabad, April 21 (EFE).- Thousands of people had gathered on Thursday at a historically significant venue in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, responding to a call by Imran Khan, recently ousted as the prime minister in a no-confidence motion, in a protest that led to road closures and has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, had appealed to his supporters on Tuesday to arrive at the Minar-e-Pakistan ground – where the resolution to establish the country was first tabled in 1940 – to support him, “if they want an independent Pakistan.”
“I invite all Pakistanis to join this struggle,” said Khan in a video message adding that “I’m going to hold the largest rally in the history of Pakistan.”
The rally is a throwback to a gathering at the same venue in October 2011, in which Khan had launched his campaign for the 2013 general elections with massive crowd support.
Local media reported that roads leading to the rally venue had been blocked and internet services were slowed down in and around the ground.
Repeated announcements were made from the stage to unblock ways to the ground and open internet.
PTI supporters told local broadcasters that they had to walk for long as access was blocked and routes diverted by authorities.
The party, which has a massive following on social media, claimed that Khan had held a record-breaking Twitter Space event on Wednesday attended by 164,000 people.
Responding to a question Khan said “this crowd of people has become a nation now.”
Fawad Chaudhry, the former information minister in Khan’s government, on Wednesday repeated allegations that the military had played a part in the government’s downfall.
On the Twitter Space, Khan said, “there are also humans in the institutions and if one man (indirect reference to the army chief) commits a mistake, it’s not the fault of whole institution.”
The ex-pm has tried to avoid directly taking on the army, and said a stronger army was “necessary for the country.”
Khan has said the rally is the beginning of a “real movement” to send pack the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and hold early general elections. The tenure of the current parliament ends in summer 2023.
The leader was ousted from power earlier this month after losing the parliamentary majority as some of his allies and his party lawmakers abandoned him.
The parliament elected a new coalition government led by Shehbaz, a pro-western politician and the younger brother of three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif.
The PTI has alleged that the United States conspired with the Pakistani opposition to oust Khan after his Moscow visit to meet President Vladimir Putin on Feb.24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Washington has denied the allegations. EFE