Pakistan’s ousted prime minister, Imran Khan, on Thursday demanded fresh elections amid political turmoil after a new government took over and warned it faces an enormous challenge to revive a battered economy.
Khan along with his over 100 lawmakers in the lower house of the parliament resigned after he lost a vote of confidence moved by a united opposition, that blamed him for mismanaging economy, governance and foreign relations.
“Whoever has made a mistake, there’s only one way to correct it that hold elections as soon as possible,” Khan told a large rally of tens of thousands of people in the eastern city of Lahore, the third such huge public gathering since he lost power to ratchet up pressure on the new government.
Khan asked his supporters to be ready for his call to march toward Islamabad if his demand to call fresh elections was delayed. “Wait for my call,” he said.
Although Khan, a cricket star turned politician, has claimed that the US was behind his downfall, an assertion that Washington denies, he had lately fallen out with the country’s powerful military over differences for the appointment of country’s top intelligence chief.
New Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday appointed a multi-party coalition cabinet made up of former political rivals in opposition who united to oust Khan.
The military has directly ruled the country for almost half its nearly 75-year history. It viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favourably when he won election in 2018, but that support waned over the appointment and economic troubles.
Khan has remained defiant so far, rejecting the opposition’s accusations as part of a US conspiracy to topple him just because he went ahead to visit Russia against a warning from Washington.
“We wanted to bring oil on 30% discount from Russia,” said Khan, who was in Moscow the day Russia attacked Ukraine, adding that his plans included to buy wheat and gas as well.