Former cricket player Imran Khan was used to big crowds during his time as a nationally known athlete, but now Khan is inciting quite the riot in a different arena — Pakistani politics. Khan’s supporters became so incensed at a rally Friday in central Pakistan that it ended in a stampede — leaving seven people dead, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Following a spirited oration by Khan in the city of Multan, supporters of the athlete-cum-politician began to shove violently in an attempt to get out of Qasim Bagh stadium where the rally was held. The chaos produced seven corpses and approximately 40 injuries. Government officials are blaming protest organizers, including Khan, for the tragic event. Imran has expressed grief about the situation, according to Dunya News.
Before the violence ensued, around 40,000 people were bustling around the event. This number is high, but it isn’t the most attention that Imran has riled up during his year-long campaign against Pakistani prime minister Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a former exile. Khan lost the prime ministership to Sharif in 2013, a battle that he has continued to say he rightfully won — accusing the prime minister of voter fraud. Imran’s supporters are numerous and dedicated in Pakistan. In one recent protest, a Pakistani woman proposed to Khan on national television.
Sharif is currently the prime minister for his third time in Pakistani history. Enemies of Imran’s centrist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Nawaz’s conservative party, the Pakistani Muslim League (PML-N), currently dominate the landscape of politics in Pakistan — with majorities in both houses of parliament. Since prime ministers and president are not directly elected in Pakistan, the lower house — in which the PML-N gained a supermajority in 2013 — were those who actually voted to put Sharif in office over Khan.
But Imran is calling bluff on the parliamentary elections that resulted in the PML-N’s majority. Khan has accused Sharif of widespread fraud, bribery, and a host of other crimes that allowed him to assume the office. The prime minister has denied these rumors, affirming that the elections held in Pakistan were completely democratic. While the international community has not intervened in the issue, some countries have agreed that the voting seemed irregular. Wounding Imran’s argument, President Barack Obama praised Pakistan’s “smooth, Democratic transition between governments” when he met with Sharif last year.
Populist cleric Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan have been leading the protests together for more than a year now — peaking with 70,000 attendees in August. Violence has followed many of Imran’s demonstrations, including the storming of a television station in early September by his supporters.
[Image via Flickr]