ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday led a rally of thousands of supporters towards the capital Islamabad against the opposition group, according to sources, which ended with clashes between police and the protesters.
Earlier this week, Khan called for a huge rally to protest his downfall after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, touting a claim he was turned out from the office in a “foreign conspiracy”.
In a centerpiece showdown with his rivals, Khan had called for supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to gather in Islamabad and stage a sit-in until fresh elections are called, as France 24 wrote.
“No obstacle can stop us, we will cross all the barriers and will reach… Islamabad,” Khan declared, flanked by more than 20,000 supporters.
But the new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif pledged to stop the convoy from entering the city, blocking all major roads surrounding Islamabad with shipping containers.
While entry and exit points of major nearby cities – where a heavy security presence was in place – were also cut off, Sharif called the rally an attempt to “divide the nation and promote chaos”.
Khan joined the march in dramatic fashion, arriving in a helicopter that touched down on a motorway clogged with supporters outside the city of Mardan, 100 kilometres (62 miles) northwest of Islamabad, the France 24 wrote.
The convoy later crossed a bridge that straddles PTI-run Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and government-run Punjab province.
As the Khan’s supporters forced their way into the capital city, where shipping containers blocking the route were pushed to the side, sporadic clashes broke out between police and protesters who have tried to clear the roads with tear gas fired in several cities.
Last month, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, where the opposition parties brought a motion against him for bad governance and economic mismanagement.
The vote took place after the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of opposition parties and said that Khan had acted unconstitutionally.
Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif – who now is the Prime Minister – said Pakistan and its parliament were “finally freed from a serious crisis”, adding in a tweet: “Congratulations to the Pakistani nation on a new dawn.”
Sharif who is a long-time rival of Khan and brother of former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be able to hold power until October 2023, when the next election is due to be held.