“Freedom cannot be obtained easily. It must be snatched away. It must be sacrificed for it,” Imran Khan said Saturday night in a speech to supporters from his home in Lahore. Khan called on his supporters to demonstrate “in the streets and villages” in the country on Sunday, and announced that he would resume his campaign for early elections on Wednesday.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for new demonstrations in the country Sunday in support of “freedom”, after his brief detention following his arrest sparked riots across the country.
Imran Khan said Saturday evening in a speech to his supporters from his home in Lahore: “Freedom cannot be obtained easily. It must be snatched away. It must be sacrificed for it.” Khan called on his supporters to demonstrate “in the streets and villages” in the country on Sunday, and announced that he would resume Wednesday. campaign for early elections.
Khan, who has been prosecuted in dozens of judicial files and has been waging a campaign of accusations against the Pakistani army since his removal from power, was released on bail on Friday after the Supreme Court deemed his arrest illegal.
Khan says that the cases against him are part of a campaign by the government and the army to prevent him from returning to power, but Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah pledged to arrest Khan again, knowing that the latter has been pressing for months to hold elections before October, hoping to return to power.
The arrest of Khan, a former cricket star who later became involved in politics and enjoys great popularity, sparked violent confrontations in several Pakistani cities between his supporters and the security forces. Several official departments were set on fire, roads were cut off, and army facilities were damaged.
Khan distanced himself in his speech from the vandalism of military facilities, denying that members of his party were involved in it, and calling for an independent investigation into the violence.
At least nine people were killed during these confrontations, according to hospitals and the police. Hundreds of police officers were injured and more than four thousand people were arrested, most of them in the provinces of Punjab in the east of the country and its capital, Lahore, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest, according to the authorities.
Earlier Saturday, the current prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, who succeeded Khan, warned that “those who have shown anti-state behavior will be arrested and prosecuted in anti-terrorism courts.”
For months, Khan has been criticizing his successor and the military establishment that previously helped him take power in 2018 before withdrawing its confidence in him. And Saturday considered that “what the army commander did made our army bad. (What happened) was because of him, not because of me,” without clarifying whether he meant the current leader or his predecessor, whom Khan holds responsible for overthrowing him.
Prior to that, Khan told reporters that “one person is the army chief” behind his arrest on Tuesday. However, the army denies these accusations, and warned again on Saturday against attempts to spread “misconceptions” about the institution.
Hours before Khan’s arrest on Tuesday, the army denounced “fabricated and malicious allegations” made by the former prime minister at the end of last week. Khan again accused a high-ranking officer of plotting to assassinate him in November, during a campaign rally where he was shot in the leg.
The army enjoys great political influence in Pakistan and has been behind three coups since the country’s independence in 1947, and has assumed power for more than three decades. However, direct criticism of it is very rare and is considered a red line, and its shooter usually turns into a target for the security services.
Mohsin Khan, 21, a supporter of the former official, said in front of his residence: “Everyone knows what’s going on. The military is behind” Khan’s arrest. And preventing access to social networks, especially Facebook and YouTube, shortly after Khan’s arrest, before the service was gradually restored throughout the country on Saturday.
An editorial in the English-language Dawn newspaper wrote that the country was preparing for “a terrible gradual confrontation in the coming days and weeks”. According to the newspaper, “none of the political or institutional leaders (…) is ready to take a step back.”