ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Challenging Shahbaz Sharif’s government and demands for early elections, ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan, including thousands of supporters, started a long-promised march on Friday to Pakistani capital Islamabad.
Earlier this week, Khan announced to start long march against the government from Lahore’s Liberty Chowk to capital Islamabad.
Roughly 10,000 demonstrators left easter city of Lahore Friday. A huge number of people piled into hundreds of trucks and cars, while many others marched on foot.
The convoy’s route — known as the Grand Trunk Road — covers a distance of 300 kilometers (187 miles) and is expected to include frequent stops, with political speeches and rallies in towns and urban areas along the way, as the Arab News reported.
Addressing supporters before the departure from Lahore, Khan described the endeavor as a “peaceful march” and claimed his political struggle against the government would continue until Sharif’s administration agrees to hold early elections.
But the government has repeatedly said the elections will be held as scheduled, in 2023.
Meanwhile, Khan maintains his ouster in a parliament no-confidence vote in April was unlawful, and a conspiracy by his political opponents orchestrated by the United States. However, both Washington and Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, denied.
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Earlier this month, Shehbaz Sharif government allocated Rs 410 million to tackle Imran Khan’s long march, amid Pakistan’s dwindling economy and a brunt of devasting floods.
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved an initial budget of over Rs 410 million to deal with the participants of the long march with an iron hand, according to reports.
“The ECC approved a supplementary gran of Rs 410.2 million in favor of the Ministry of Interior for expenses related to law and order,” said the Finance Ministry.
The budget is an estimated cost of preparation to deal with the protesters, including the deployment of 30,000 strong forces, meals, transportation, anti-riot gears, and surveillance of the protesters.
Of total Rs 410 million, Rs 259 million is approved for hiring vehicles and containers, Rs 35 million for food, Rs 31.2 million for fuel, and Rs 18 million for anti-riot gears, as ANI reported.
Meanwhile, Rs 2.5 million has been sanctioned for arranging the residence of this personnel for five days and another Rs 64.4 million for the purchase and installation of security cameras and other related equipment.