Security increased as a precautionary measure amid threats to leaders
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will make his first public appearance on Saturday to address thousands of supporters since he was shot in an assassination attempt earlier this month.
The shooting was the latest twist in months of political turmoil that began in April when Khan was ousted by a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Saturday’s rally is the climax of a so-called “long march” by Khan’s Pakistan Terek Einsakh (PTI) party to pressure the government to hold snap elections before the parliamentary term expires next October.
“My life is in danger. Despite my injuries, I am going to Rawalpindi for my country,” PTI said in Khan’s morning tweet.
“My country comes to Rawalpindi for me.”
A video circulated Saturday of the aide posing after the shooting after removing the blue cast that Khan wore on his right leg.
The rally will take place in Rawalpindi, a garrison adjacent to the capital Islamabad and home to the headquarters of the country’s powerful armed forces.
Saghir Ahmed was one of thousands who had long arrived for Khan’s speech. It was decorated with bulletproof glass banners depicting Crane lowering his panel around a stage lectern and breaking the manacles with his fists.
A 32-year-old tailor who closed his shop to attend said Pakistan’s dire economic situation, with rapid inflation and a plummeting rupee, had made life “unbearable.”
“I hope Khan will introduce some reforms and the situation will improve,” he told AFP.
Khan has a cult following among his supporters, but the 70-year-old will speak several hundred meters (yards) from most of the crowd on Saturday for safety reasons.
In the November 3 assassination attempt, a gunman opened fire at point-blank range as Khan’s open-top container truck drove through a busy street.
A building overlooking the site of Saturday’s rally was searched overnight, a police official told AFP.
Authorities have thrown steel rings around Islamabad to prevent Khan’s supporters from marching into government buildings, deploying thousands of security personnel and blocking roads with shipping containers.
Khan-led protests in May devolved into 24-hour chaos, with the capital on lockdown and clashes between police and protesters continuing across Pakistan.
Police said they would be firm against any attempts by PTI supporters to enter Islamabad at this time.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaura, who Khan said was involved in the assassination plot, issued an “emergency alert” on Friday warning of a security threat to the rally.
“PTI still has time (to cancel),” he said, citing militant Pakistani groups that could harm Khan.
The government said the assassination attempt was the work of a lone wolf currently in custody, and police leaked a “confession” video by a junk shop owner that Khan acted because he was against Islam.
But Khan, a former international cricket star who gained a playboy reputation before he got married, has long warned that the government will blame fanatics for any attempt to kill him. .
Saturday’s rally comes two days after the government named the former spymaster as the next military chief.
The appointment of General Syed Asim Munir has ended months of speculation about the position long thought to be the real power in the 220 million-person nuclear-weapon state.
Munir was chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency under Khan, but his role ended just eight months after the dropout was reported.
The sixth-largest military in the world, Pakistan’s military wields great influence in the country, having led at least three coups and ruling for more than 30 years since its independence in 1947.
Since being exiled, Khan has held a series of large rallies across the country, drawing large crowds.
Saturday’s rally is expected to be one of the biggest yet.