Channel NewsAsia

Pakistan opposition leader plans mass rally for fresh polls

Imran Khan, the legendary cricketer turned politician, has called for fresh elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after accusing the ruling party of vote rigging.

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan, the leader of one of Pakistan's largest opposition parties PTI, has called for fresh elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said his party has hard evidence of widespread vote rigging in the May 2013 poll and that he was robbed of the top job.

Mr Khan is planning what has been called a "million man march" on August 14 to force the government to accede to his demands.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Khan said: "There was once a film called The Greatest Train Robbery (sic)... this was the greatest robbery ever in Pakistan's history of robbing people's mandate."

Stirring up passions on an already heated political debate, the legendary cricketer turned politician was not mincing his words as he accused the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) of rigging last year's general election and called for the resignation of the prime minister.

Mr Khan added: "My message to Nawaz Sharif is that the days of monarchy in Pakistan are over. It is time to have a genuine democracy in Pakistan... And that is what we're striving for on the 14th of August."

Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) Party claims there was mass vote rigging during the historic elections in May 2013, which saw Pakistan's first ever transition of one democratic government to another.

His party alleges that ballot boxes were stuffed with extra votes in 90 constituencies and that his party has tried every legal avenue, from the Election Commission to the Supreme Court, to seek justice. He said they have now been forced to take to the streets and want nothing short of total change at the top. But Mr Khan's allegations have been met with outright rejection by the government. Siddique Ul Farooq, a PMLN spokesman, said: "It has nothing to do with reality because the nation has mandated PMLN and Nawaz Sharif."

Some analysts agree there were voting discrepancies during the elections but said it is not reasonable to claim that the entire poll was a sham. Still, some feel Imran Khan's claims may pose a threat to the government.

Sultan Mehmood Hali, a political analyst, said: "They are extremely active on social media in inviting other people to join them and there are people abroad, especially the youth, who are going to help mobilise (people). Imran Khan is likely to amass a massive and sizeable number which can prove a threat to the ruling dispensation in Islamabad."

Mr Khan's announcement raises several questions: Where will the long march be held? Are one million people really going to show up? And if they do, can the government afford to ignore them?

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia