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a packed crowd for the return of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan

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Imran Khan, 70, victim of an assassination attempt on November 3, was back on Saturday November 26. The former Pakistani Prime Minister gathered the crowd of his supporters in Rawalpindi, and gave his first public speech since his near death, vowing to fight until his ” last drop of blood “.

I saw death up close “said Imran Khan this Saturday in Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad, in front of his supporters. The former prime minister, whose ouster caused a political crisis in Pakistan in April, arrived limping, leaning on a walker, surrounded by bodyguards and protected by bulletproof glass.

I’m more worried about Pakistan’s freedom than my life “, continued Mr. Khan, in this first public speaking since the attack against his person, which occurred during his previous rally. ” I will fight for this country until my last drop of blood “, promises the former head of government to his supporters.

In early November, Imran Khan was shot in the legs while speaking in the post-vote of no confidence in Parliament, which cost him his job. Today’s rally took place near the army headquarters, after the long march organized by his party, the Pakistan Justice Movement (PTI).

Supporters of Irman Khan, gathered in the streets of Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad, on November 26, 2022.
Supporters of Irman Khan, gathered in the streets of Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad, on November 26, 2022. © Sonia Ghezali / RFI

►To re-read: Imran Khan’s ‘Long March’ in Pakistan: Thousands of activists continue to gather

Push for early elections

Mr Khan’s aim is to push the current government to call a snap general election, but he must be careful with his life. He gave his speech hundreds of yards from the bulk of the 25,000 to 30,000 people present, separated from him by rolls of barbed wire and a cordon of police.

During the attack, an armed man was able to open fire at point-blank range on the former head of government, while his truck was taking a crowded street. The buildings overlooking the site of the day’s rally were this time searched during the night, while snipers were positioned on nearby heights.

From this Saturday morning, supporters of the PTI had flocked from all over Pakistan, equipped with flags in the colors of the party, green and red. The authorities had put in place a heavy security device around the capital, Islamabad, to prevent supporters of the former head of government from marching on official buildings.

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gathered to attend his speech in Rawalpindi, this Saturday, November 26, 2022.
Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gathered to attend his speech in Rawalpindi, this Saturday, November 26, 2022. AFP – AAMIR QURESHI

►To re-read: Pakistan: Police mobilized in Islamabad against supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan

“He is so special to all of us”

The ex-Prime Minister therefore continues his political mobilization, despite his injuries in Wazirabad, near the city of Gujranwala, in the east. And despite the risks, tens of thousands of activists responded. “Long live Imran Khan”, they chanted, as our special correspondent on the spot observed, Sonia Ghezali.

We could see trucks covered with banners and posters bearing the effigy of Mr. Khan, equipped with loudspeakers broadcasting patriotic songs at full volume. In the crowd, there was notably a woman, Bushra Bhatti, who had traveled four hours to be there, and who is also calling for general elections.

Imran Khan has been able to mobilize people to protest over the past few months. No other politician had this power before him. He is so special to all of us that we left our families, our children at home just to be able to be there, we sacrificed our family lives to support the movement.

Imran Khan continues to mobilize the crowd. The former international cricket star, converted into politics, even seems to have attracted even more supporters since he was injured. Mounir Hussein came to demonstrate with his wife and their two children.

In Pakistan, for the past 75 years, there has been a kind of hidden dictatorship. We vote for one person, but it is actually someone else who governs. We are aware of it now. And we don’t want that anymore. Imran Khan was hit by four bullets, we are ready to receive some in our turn if necessary.

►To re-read: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan injured in assassination attempt

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