Pakistan opposition leader plans mass rally for fresh polls

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Former Pakistani cricket hero turned opposition leader Imran Khan on Tuesday announced he would hold a major protest in Islamabad next week to force the government to step down and hold a fresh election. Khan, who leads the third largest party in Pakistan's parliament, has long complained of massive rigging in the 2013 general election which saw the country's first transition of power from one civilian-led government to another. "For the past 14 months we have taken all legal courses available, but we did not get justice and now we are compelled to come out on the streets," Khan told a press conference. "On August 14, God willing, we will hold the biggest protest in the history of Pakistan in Islamabad where we will demand another election," he said. August 14 is Independence Day for Pakistan, marking when it was carved out of India in 1947 after the end of British colonial rule. Khan alleged that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N had come into power through a "fraudulent election, fake mandate". Foreign election observers announced at the time that the poll had been credible and critics of Khan say his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party should not have accepted their seats in parliament if they did not believe the vote was fair. Khan's party also formed a government in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is racked by an Islamist insurgency and it was unclear if he was willing to relinquish power there for a fresh poll. A senior PTI official told AFP his party would demand the government provided a deadline to comply with their demands, failing which it would take to the streets once more. Late last month the government announced the formation of a cross-party committee to suggest reforms to the election process and report back in 90 days. Analysts have said Khan's movement also risks undermining Pakistan's fragile democracy and emboldening the all-powerful army, which has ruled the country for half its history.

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