Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed he has "written evidence" that "money" from abroad is being used by the country's opposition parties to unseat him from power.
"We have been threatened in writing but we will not compromise on national interests," he told a huge crowd gathered in capital Islamabad on Sunday as he flashed a letter that he said contained proof of "foreign conspiracy" aimed at dislodging his government.
Khan, who is facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament, said "plotting and planning is being carried out to influence the foreign policy of Pakistan from outside," promising to reveal more "at the right time."
"I am placing the case of Pakistan's independence before you. The letter I have is proof and I want to dare anyone who is doubting this letter. I will invite them off the record. We have to decide for how long we will have to live like this. We are getting threats. There are many things about foreign conspiracy which will be shared very soon," Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.
Khan had called for a million of his supporters to rally in the capital to put pressure on dozens of National Assembly members who are reported to be considering voting against him.
my earlier tweet ref the letter the PM spoke about: someone who i'd trust with my life says the letter is real. i have immense problems with the PM and his approach. but if external forces want to oust him (not just him but any Pak PM), i oppose that tooth-and-nail.— EH (@ejazhaider) March 27, 2022
Strength of rally
According to independent observers, 50,000 to 60,000 people attended the rally, including a large number of women activists, in what was termed "the biggest rally ever" in Islamabad by the party.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) leaders put the figure at over 200,000.
There was a heavy security presence in the capital, with opposition parties also planning rallies in the city next week.
Charged participants rose to their feet and chanted slogans as Khan, attired in a white Shalwar Kameez (long shirt and loose-fitting trousers) and black waistcoat, appeared on the wide stage.
The national anthem and other songs were played before Khan's keynote speech amid the din of drum-beating and anti-opposition slogans.
Thank you Pakistan , to each one of you who came in Parade Ground, to those who were stuck in the rallies and to those who supported from home. Pakistan stands with Imran Khan! #IamImranKhan pic.twitter.com/bY4MhX4dJk— PTI (@PTIofficial) March 27, 2022
The former cricketing star is accused by the opposition of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy in the most serious challenge to his leadership since coming to power in 2018.
Khan, however, says he steered the country out of raging coronavirus, overhauled economy, and helped stablise neighbouring Afghanistan. He has long campaigned against growing anti-Muslim sentiment, and takes credit for the UN's recent move to adopt an International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Enumerating his economic achievements, Khan said he saved Pakistan from a $1.2 billion penalty imposed by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in favour of Turkish power rental company Karkey with the help of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2019.
PM Khan, who has been touting his country's independent foreign policy, hit out recently at Islamabad-based Western envoys who urged Pakistan to condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine, asking them if they thought Pakistan was their "slave".
Political analysts say Khan has lost the support of some powerful military officials, while a spate of MPs from his party have said they will defect.
Khan has denied receiving backing from the military. The military also denies supporting his party.
Khan was elected after promising to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism, but the opposition has accused him of mounting a witch-hunt against his opponents.
A no-confidence motion has been tabled in the country’s National Assembly, with days of debates expected to start next week before the vote.
The opposition needs a simple majority to topple Khan, after which a new prime minister would be chosen by Parliament.
But horse-trading is common in Pakistan politics and the rebels could well return to the fold.
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