- Warns that he will come back to Islamabad if his demand is not met
- His call comes after govt authorises deployment of Pakistan Army troops to protect important buildings
On its party chairman Imran Khan's call, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and leaders had begun their rallies from different points on Wednesday morning, and reached the federal capital from various parts of the country at night.
The government had attempted to prevent the convoy led by Imran from reaching the capital by shutting down all entry and exit points around the city, but was forced to allow in the protesters by an emergency Supreme Court order.
In an early-morning notification the next day (Thursday), the government had also authorised the deployment of Pakistan Army in the Red Zone in Islamabad for protection of important buildings.
In his address on Thursday morning, a culmination of a chaotic 24 hours, Imran warned the government to stage fresh elections or face more mass protests.
"I want to give a message to this imported government to announce elections within six days. Dissolve the assemblies and call an election in June," he said, to a thinned out crowds of thousands.
He warned that he would return to stage a fresh rally next week if elections were not scheduled, and called on his supporters to disperse.
Imran Khan addresses protesters at Islamabad's 9th Avenue and gives a six-day deadline to the government for announcing elections and dissolving assemblies.
The former PM claims that the government was trying to create a divide between the nation and police.
The government authorises deployment of Pakistan Army troops in the Red Zone for protection of important official buildings.
"The exact number of troops to be deployed will be worked out by the Pakistan Army authorities and in consultation with ICT administration," says the government.
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill says Imran Khan will reach Srinagar Highway in a few minutes.
"Inshallah, we are reaching D-Chowk very soon," he tweets.
PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq says the PTI has committed contempt of court by not coming to the office of the Chief Commissioner for negotiations as directed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
"Supreme Court should take notice of the issue," Sadiq says, adding: "No one will benefit from the anarchy being spread by the PTI."
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah says the Supreme Court should take notice and force PTI to hold rally where it was allowed by the court.
"The Attorney General and the committee members have gone to see Chief Justice," he tweets.
Imran Khan addresses PTI's supporters in Hassan Abdal.
"A sea of people is reaching D-Chowk," PTI's chairman says. "We will not go anywhere until the election date is given."
PTI's official Twitter handle says Imran Khan's caravan is only 55 km away from Islamabad.
Imran Khan's supporters start to gather at Lahore's Liberty Chowk.
"The brave and committed citizens of Lahore, men, women, children, are standing tall and strong to defend their county's honor and dignity," PTI posts on its official Twitter handle.
Islamabad Police says no one is allowed to enter Islamabad's Red Zone area.
"If anyone tries to enter the red zone, it will be dealt with severely. In other places, officers are instructed not to use force. Protesters are urged to remain calm. Do not throw stones or damage property," the capital police says.
Islamabad Police says long march protesters have set fire to trees and vehicles in the capital's Blue Area.
"Police called the fire brigade. Some places were set on fire while the protesters again set the trees on the Express Chowk. Red zone security has been beefed up," the capital police posted on its official Twitter handle.
PTI calls on its workers to reach D-Chowk in Islamabad.
"Pakistan, your Kaptaan will meet you at D Chowk, Islamabad. This movement is for our country, our people, our next generation. If we don't put up a fight, we will never win our Haqeeqi Azadi. Niklo Pakistan ki khatir!," read a tweet published by the party’s official handle.
PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz says that before the announcement of the PTI's long march, the government was considering calling early elections, but it will not do so now.
"Imran Khan has been trapped after failing to get the expected response from the public," she says.
She says PTI's Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar have been meeting government officials to negotiate a safe exit after the announcement of the long march.
"Talks were held at the Speaker's House at 10am today," she says.
Maryam says Nawaz Sharif made it clear that elections will not be held at anyone's request.
"Imran Khan has been rejected by the nation today," she adds.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says the "politics of dharna" is detrimental to the progress and stability of Pakistan.
"It has been my conviction that Pakistan will progress only through sheer hard work," the premier tweets, adding: "We are focused on overcoming challenges of governance. Nothing can distract us from the task at hand. I owe it to the people of Pakistan."
PTI leader and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says the government's continued use of violence shows a complete disregard for the Supreme Court's ruling.
"Despite the Supreme Court ordering the release of all arrested PTI members and to cease & desist with this thug use of violence and intimidation tactics, shelling and tear gas still continues. Blatant disregard for the Supreme Court ruling by these so-called bastions of democracy," he tweets.
The situation in Karachi turns violent as police fires tear gas shells to disperse PTI members who gathered at different points for the protest march.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan says his party's rally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has entered Punjab and headed towards Islamabad.
"We have entered Punjab and will InshAllah be heading towards Islamabad. No amount of state oppression and fascism by this imported govt can stop or deter our march," he tweets.
Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb says Imran Khan is again resorting to politics of chaos and disorder after four years.
"People have rejected the politics of violence and chaos," she says.
PTI workers and police personnel clash at Karachi's Numaish Chowrangi. Reports indicate shelling has been used to disperse PTI party workers with arrests being made as well.
Supreme Court of Pakistan allows the PTI to hold rally in Islamabad's H/9 ground.
The court in its order says the government and PTI leadership should meet tonight in the office of the Chief Commissioner to finalize the terms of reference regarding the rally.
The top court also issues directives, barring police from arresting PTI supporters.
PTI's Hammad Azhar says he is injured due to police's indiscriminate shelling and heading for first aid.
Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shehbaz criticizes PTI's long march by saying that the "people have rejected the politics of anarchy, division, hatred, and violence."
"Imran Niazi, where are the 2 million people you were supposed to bring? The people want real freedom from the inflation and misery you have imposed," he tweets.
DIG Operations Lahore Sohail Chaudhary rejects reports that police threw a PTI worker under the bridge near the Ravi River.
"This is just false propaganda that has nothing to do with reality. Please do not spread such news without confirmation. At this point, no policeman is seen anywhere above or below the bridge and no such incident has been reported," he tweets.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses a press conference. He says only a few hundred people have caused a ruckus but Punjab remains peaceful.
The minister says that people involved in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's long march are armed.
"The purpose of holding the long march today was to damage the government's ongoing negotiations with the IMF," he says.
Interior Minister says he is thankful to the people of Punjab for rejecting PTI's "violent" long march. “Imran Khan had made tall claims that he will bring 2 million people to Islamabad in his long march, but since the morning, only a few hundred people have tried to cross the barriers created by police, and failed."
The minister says a bench of the apex court has directed that PTI appoint a negotiating team to discuss the issue of the long march's venue with the government.
"PTI has appointed a 4-member team on the court's order, we will do the same," he adds.
The minister apologises to the public for the inconvenience caused by road blockades erected to prevent the long march from reaching Islamabad.
“The steps we have taken are intended to protect the lives and property of the people and are in the interest of Pakistan,” he says.
Fawad Chaudhry says he is facing police resistance in Mangla.
"The whole country is now occupied Kashmir," he tweets.
Under pressure, the rupee declines for the 15th successive session, closing at 201.92 against the US dollar in the inter-bank market.
Rising political noise amid calls for early elections and lack of economic and has kept the currency under pressure for weeks.
PTI's Hammad Azhar says shelling continues on their convoy.
Imran says "absolutely not" to rumours of a deal between PTI and the government.
"We are moving towards Islamabad and no question of any deal. We will remain in Islamabad till announcement of dates for dissolution of assemblies and elections are given. Calling all people of Islamabad and Pindi to join," he tweets.
Police shells Ali Amin Gandapur's convoy on C-Pak Road.
Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb refutes reports of an agreement between the government and PTI.
"No agreement has been reached with the armed group that martyred the police personnel," she tweets.
PTI's senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi says the long march is peaceful and the party does not want violence.
"We want polls which is a constitutional demand. This is our democratic right and in line with the constitution of Pakistan.
"People made sacrifices during Pakistan movement and today, this nation is ready to break the shackles of slavery and attain practical freedom."
Imran addresses a huge gathering in Swabi.
"They arrested our workers, harassed our female supporters," says Imran. "I ask this — when others organised their protests, we didn't stop them, why are they stopping us?
"We will overcome all our obstacles, and move ahead. Our protest will be peaceful."
The KSE-100 Index recovers half its intra-day losses, and is currently hovering around the 41,800-point mark with a decrease of roughly 140 points. Earlier in the day, the index had plunged over 550 points.
Imran urges everyone to carry Pakistan's flag with them.
"This is a defining moment today for the Haqiqi Azaadi of Pakistan," he says.
People start arriving at Numaish Chowrangi in Karachi despite hurdles along the way.
PTI's massive South KPK convoy successfully crosses blockades at the Punjab-KPK border and is on its way towards Islamabad.
In a tweet, PML-N's vice-president Maryam Nawaz claims that not even a total of 500 people left Punjab for Islamabad.
"Where did 2 million people go? A total of 500 people did not leave Punjab. It seems that even Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not listen to Fitna Khan's call," she says.
Police attempts to arrest PTI's Hammad Azhar.
Imran's caravan reaches Karnal Sher Khan interchange, Swabi.
Rupee hits a new low during intra-day trading in the inter-bank market. Reports indicate the currency was being traded at 202 against the US dollar.
The Supreme Court (SC) directs the Islamabad chief commissioner to provide an alternate site to PTI for its long march, saying "let the PTI hold its protest and then go home".
PTI chief Imran reaches Swabi by helicopter from Peshawar, and will lead the procession from Ambar Interchange.
In a video message, Imran says he is starting the long march from Peshawar and invites all from KPK to reach Wali interchange.
"I will lead the caravan from there and will march to Islamabad," he says.
The stock market reacts to rising political noise, with the key benchmark KSE-100 Index plunging as much as 500 points in intra-day trading.
PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, and Shafqat Mehmood are among those PTI members leading the long march from different points.
Video footage showed policemen stopping the supporters from moving forward and making use of tear gas.
In several tweets, the official Twitter handle of the PTI said that their marchers were also stopped at the Shahdara area in Lahore and later marched after they removed the hurdles.
In a tweet, Azhar said that the impediments and containers on Batti Chowk, Ravi Bridge and Shahdara have been removed and the roads have been cleared by "the public".
Moreover, a tweet from Senator Ejaz Chaudhary's official Twitter said that he was arrested after the place he was staying in was "stormed by over 100 policemen".
"The place he was staying was stormed by over 100 policemen — the gate of the house broken," the admin of the handle said.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government stated weapons were recovered from the vehicles of PTI's Lahore office bearers. In a tweet, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said that weapons were recovered by Punjab Lahore police from vehicles of PTI Lahore office bearers Zubair Niazi and Bajash Niazi.
She also provided details of the weapons which comprise six "223 bore guns, 13 SMG rifles, three pistols, 10 'Kopay', 96 magazines of SMG rifles and 223 bore guns, 26 magazines of pistols, 50 boxes of bullets and six bigger packs of bullets.
This is a developing story, and will be updated accordingly