Huge crowds for Khan at first rally since shooting

Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has spoken to a huge crowd of supporters in his first public appearance since being shot at and injured three weeks ago.

Crowds gathered for a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, taking flags and signs.

The former cricket star urged them to live without fear of death. One person was killed and several others injured during the attack earlier this month, which unfolded as Mr Khan led a similar event.

The former PM was injured in his right leg and underwent surgery. He has accused members of the current government of plotting the attack in Wazirabad. Authorities have rejected the accusation and released a video purporting to show a confession from a man they described as the only suspect in the shooting.

At the rally in Rawalpindi, Mr Khan’s supporters erupted in cheers when he appeared after a delay of several hours. One woman told the BBC she had come because Mr Khan’s cause was that of the people of Pakistan, not of himself. “I am here for a leader who is supporting us,” she said.

“There is one man only who has been raising his voice against all the establishment,” a man in the crowd said. “He is here to look forward, he has given us a vision.”

The atmosphere was jovial despite heightened security, with crowds chanting slogans in support of the former prime minister and popular Pakistani songs blaring out from loudspeakers.

Mr Khan alleged that “three criminals” were waiting to make another attempt on his life. But he told supporters, “Fear makes an entire nation into slaves”. During his speech, he also admitted failures in tackling corruption during his premiership – saying he “failed in bringing the powerful under the law”.

The event was described as the climax of Mr Khan’s “long march” – a series of rallies during which he has been demanding early elections. Beforehand, authorities put up roadblocks and urged him to call off the rally – citing the risk of violence.

The former international cricket star was removed from office earlier this year after losing a confidence vote in parliament. -BBC

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