ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan announced his decision on Tuesday to lead an anti-government march to the federal capital shortly after the government refused to permit the protest demonstration, saying it was a “decisive moment” that would determine the future direction of the country.
Khan, who has been seeking fresh elections in the country since his ouster from power last month in a no-confidence vote, said on Sunday he would march on Islamabad on May 25 while asking his supporters from different parts of Pakistan to join him there.
The government ordered a crackdown against his top aides and staunch supporters in different cities on Monday night before declaring it would not allow Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to stage the planned sit-in.
“This is a decisive moment,” Khan said while addressing a news conference in Peshawar, asking his followers not to fear the government’s heavy-handed tactics.
“I will be leaving [Khyber] Pakhtunkhwa with one of the biggest caravans in history tomorrow to go to Islamabad,” he added.
Khan wondered why the government was taking stringent measures to stop the protest march while pointing out he had never broken a law in his entire political career.
Addressing the country’s top judiciary, he asked if it was going to allow the government to stop the march since it could put the institution’s reputation on the line.
He also mentioned “the neutrals” — a reference to the country’s military that described itself as “apolitical” while Khan’s administration was driven out of power – saying the nation would also judge them on the basis of their actions during the ongoing crisis.
“You have to decide which side are you standing on,” he maintained while adding that it was no longer an option for anyone to stay neutral anymore.
The former prime minister also warned the police and bureaucracy not to follow “unlawful directives” of the government.
“There are two ways from here: one leads to destruction while the other will take us to real independence,” he said.
Khan reiterated his march would bring “a sea of people” to Islamabad, making it impossible for anyone to stop it.