“I want to say that we are humans and we shall not be treated like animals. You can’t fool all the people all the time, the nation has stood up and now we have two paths before us, we want a peaceful or a bloody revolution? There is no third option,” he said.
A gunman opened fire on Khan and his supporters Thursday during a controversial march demanding early elections. The gunman was arrested shortly afterward by police and remains in custody. Khan said one person was killed in the attack and 11 wounded.
He said he plans to rejoin his protest march on the capital once he has recovered. Before his speech, his doctor presented X-rays showing the bullet fragments in his shin.
The shooting has escalated tensions across Pakistan, with thousands of Khan supporters launching demonstrations after prayers Friday. The protesters chanted “Revolution!” and “Khan, your devotees are countless.” The protests blocked major highways outside the capital, Islamabad, and in the cities of Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.
Riot police quickly moved in, firing volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowds. Videos circulated by local broadcasters showed some Khan supporters in Islamabad being loaded into the back of a police van. And on the edges of the capital, hundreds of protesters are continuing to block highways despite thick clouds of tear gas and calls to disband.
Khan also called on the head of Pakistan’s military to take “action” against “the black sheep in his organization.” Khan warned that if the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, does not “put the country first,” it will not “bring a good name to his organization.”
The Pakistani military quickly condemned Khan’s remarks, describing them as “baseless allegations” and “highly regrettable,” in a written statement.
“No one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity,” it said.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah blasted Khan’s party during a news conference Friday, saying the former leader has chosen “a path of destruction.”
After condemning Thursday’s attack, Sanaullah suggested that Khan’s heated rhetoric was partly to blame for the shooting and warned that national unrest will hurt not only the ruling party.
“If you think that [your path] will destroy others, then you must realize that it will also not spare you. You are sitting on the same branch,” he said, adding that the government is exploring ways “to counter those forces which are adding fuel to intolerance.”
Khan’s party members released statements blaming the Pakistani government for the shooting.
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior member of Khan’s party, described the attack Thursday as “a well-thought-out conspiracy,” in a series of tweets after a meeting of Khan’s top political leadership.
Khan first accused the officials Thursday hours after he was shot. He is demanding that they be removed from office and that an investigation into the shooting be launched.
“You crossed our red line. … Now face the music,” tweeted another senior Khan party member, Pervez Khattak, referring to Thursday’s attack.
Khan and the Pakistani government have gone head to head since the former cricket star was ousted from power by Parliament this year. Khan blames his ouster on a foreign plot, and in the months that followed, he grew his popular support by holding a series of rallies across the country blasting Pakistan’s new leadership.
In his Friday address, Khan pledged that his march demanding early elections would resume “soon.”
“After I get well. After that, I will again give the call for a march towards Islamabad. I ask the nation not to compromise on their rights and not to compromise on their freedom, it’s the most important thing. A nation of slaves has no respect,” he said.
George reported from Kabul and Khan from Peshawar.