Pakistan’s ex-premier Khan calls off protest march after clashes

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday disbanded a protest march planned by supporters in Islamabad after clashes with police outside parliament the previous evening, giving a six-day deadline to the government to announce early elections.

Khan said that the confidence vote that toppled him and ushered in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Shabhaz Sharif last month was the result of a US conspiracy, and he is demanding a fresh election to show he has national support.

Khan arrived in Islamabad late on Wednesday night after an hourslong journey and faced huge resistance from police. His supporters of him reached D-Chowk near parliament ahead of Khan’s arrival where police fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. The clashes between police and Pakistan Justice Movement (PTI) supporters continued through the night until Thursday morning.

The government called for the army to be deployed in the red zone, where the Presidential Palace, Prime Minister’s office, Parliament, the Supreme Court of Pakistan and foreign embassies are located.

This morning Khan called off the protest saying he did not want to move into confrontation.

“I am giving you (the government) six days to announce a date for a snap election. If you don’t announce the election, I will come back to Islamabad again with (the support of) Pakistanis,” Khan said in an address to his supporters.

PTI’s bigwig Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who has also served as the country’s former foreign minister, claimed five party supporters were killed in the police scuffles, while 1,400 others were arbitrarily arrested.

A constable was also allegedly shot dead by a local PTI leader when the police raided his house in Lahore late Tuesday night.

Khan, who was removed after a parliamentary no-trust motion last month, announced the “long march” to press his demand for snap elections, which are otherwise due in 2023.

The government has rejected his demands, announcing that the current setup would continue until August of next year.

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