Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has started a huge ‘long march’ in the capital Islamabad on Friday demanding early elections. He has also been able to create pressure on the government which is already in crisis. This is Imran Khan’s second long march after leaving power. News from AFP.

The former international cricket star was ousted in April after losing a no-confidence vote. Despite losing power, he has managed to maintain widespread public support across the country. Thousands of Imran’s people are expected to join a convoy. The caravan will travel about 380 km from Lahore to Islamabad next week. He will also take to the field to rally and gather more protesters.

A person named Muhammad Mazhar (36) who came to participate in the rally in Lahore said, We have to free our country from robbers and thieves. They are grabbing the country’s money for their own interests. We have to save our country and change this system, so I am supporting Imran Khan.’

Security has already been beefed up in the capital, with hundreds of shipping containers lined up at key intersections, ready to block protesters if they try to storm the government enclave. During a similar protest last May, Imran Khan’s supporters clashed with the police.

The country’s ruling coalition government is currently struggling to revive a battered economy and deal with the aftermath of devastating floods that submerged a third of the country. At least $30 billion is needed to rebuild the country. Imran Khan gave this kind of political program at such a moment.

Imran Khan came to power in Pakistan in 2018. But he lost power with the mismanagement of his economy and the downfall of a military force accused of aiding his rise.

On Thursday, the head of the country’s main intelligence agency and the military’s public relations chief held an unprecedented press conference where they accused Imran Khan of seeking illegal assistance and denied that the military establishment interfered in politics.

Pakistan has been ruled by the military for most of its 75-year history of independence, and criticism of security agencies has long been seen as a red line.

In a video message published on Thursday night, Imran Khan said, ‘I am not afraid of anything including arrest. People want a role in establishing… free and fair elections, because that’s the only way.’

The institution is under further scrutiny this week following the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif by police in Kenya, where he fled to avoid charges of sedition.

Kenyan officials say Sharif’s death was a case of mistaken identity. But it has sparked speculation of a targeted killing and the Pakistani government has ordered a formal investigation.

The funeral of Sharif, a staunch critic of Pakistan’s military establishment, was attended by thousands of Imran Khan supporters chanting ‘Arshad, your blood will bring revolution’.

Imran Khan has held several rallies, demonstrating his popularity, and won five out of six by-elections earlier this month.

(28 October)