By: Zahid Jadwat
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has issued a six-day ultimatum to the coalition government of Shehbaz Sharif to announce a date for early elections. Khan addressed a throng of supporters in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday (25 May), vowing to return with millions of people if a fresh election is not announced.
“I had decided that I will sit here until the government dissolves assemblies and announces elections, but of what I have seen in the past 24 hours, they (government) are taking the nation towards anarchy,” the 69-year-old former Prime Minister declared. The march had been banned by authorities on Tuesday, resulting in violent clashes between Police and protestors.
“Government has tried every method to crush our Azadi March, they used teargas on peaceful protest, our homes were raided and privacy of the homes were violated, however, I have seen the nation free itself of fear of slavery,” he said.
In his address, Khan claimed that five of his supporters were killed in the violence across the country. There was no immediate comment from the government about Khan’s claim.
Speaking in an interview on Radio Islam, an Associate Research Fellow at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), said Khan has relentlessly promoted the narrative that he had been ousted in a foreign conspiracy against him.
Basit explicated that negotiations for early elections are being conducted between Khan and the military, which has historically played a major role in the precarious politics of Pakistan, which partly explains why Khan ditched the planned sit-in for an ultimatum.
“One factor which also accounts for Khan giving some space to the government is background negotiations going on between him and the government, which are facilitated by the military, that he will get early elections but he doesn’t need to agitate,” he said.
He added that the volatile situation could lead to early elections: “The situation we are witnessing in Pakistan is a lot of political uncertainty [and] economic volatility. Yesterday, negotiations between the Pakistani government and IMF failed [because] they couldn’t reach an agreement. I think there is some understanding that perhaps an early election is the only way out hence what we saw yesterday is arguably what was supposed to be a long march that has turned into a protest march which ended with a speech this morning”.
Listen to the full interview here: