- PTI chief says instead of proceeding to Islamabad, it is better to leave the government
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that it was better to quit assemblies than "be a part of a corrupt system".
"We will not be part of this system. We have decided to quit all the assemblies and get out of this corrupt system," said Imran.
"My party has not come to Rawalpindi for elections or politics. It is the need of the country to have fresh elections."
Earlier, the PTI chief said that this is a defining moment for Pakistan as he began his much-anticipated speech.
"It will take three months for my foot to heal, but I am here for the sake of Pakistan.
"There is still a threat to my life and travelling to Rawalpindi with an injury was not easy," the former PM said. "I saw death very closely."
He admitted that he failed to bring the powerful under the law during his rule.
Imran's address to thousands of supporters was his first public appearance since being shot earlier this month in an assassination attempt he blamed on the current premier, and two other officials. His accusations have been denied.
The shooting was the latest twist in months of political turmoil that began in April when Imran was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament.
Saturday's rally was also the climax of a so-called 'long march' by PTI to press the government to call a snap election before parliament's term expires in October next year.
"My life is in danger, and despite being injured I am going to Rawalpindi for the nation," PTI quoted Khan as saying in a morning tweet.
"My nation will come to Rawalpindi for me."
On Saturday, a video was circulating of aides posing with a now-removed blue cast that Imran wore on his right leg after the shooting.
The rally took place on a vast open ground between the capital, Islamabad, and neighbouring Rawalpindi — the garrison city that is home to the headquarters of the country's military.
Authorities threw a ring of steel around Islamabad to prevent PTI supporters from marching on government buildings, with thousands of security personnel deployed and roads blocked by shipping containers.
Imran-led protests in May spiralled into 24 hours of chaos, with the capital blockaded and running clashes across Pakistan between police and protesters.
Earlier, Police said any attempt by PTI supporters to enter Islamabad this time would be firmly dealt with.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, who Imran says was involved in the assassination plot, issued a "red alert" Friday warning of security threats to the rally.
"PTI still has the time (to cancel)," he said, listing Pakistan's Taliban and Al Qaeda among the extremist groups that could harm Imran.
The government says the assassination attempt was the work of a lone wolf now in custody, with police leaking a "confession" video by the junk-shop owner saying he acted because Khan was against Islam.
But Imran, a former international cricket star, said he has long warned the government would blame a religious fanatic for any attempt to kill him.
Saturday's rally took place two days after the government named a former spymaster as the next military chief.
Lt Gen Syed Asim Munir's appointment ended months of speculation over the position. He had served as chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency under Imran, but his stint ended after just eight months following a reported falling out.
Since being ousted, Imran has staged a series of mass rallies across the country, drawing huge crowds.
Saturday's gathering was expected to be one of the biggest yet.
Convoys of PTI supporters were streaming in from around Pakistan, with buses, trucks and cars bearing party flags.
Imran lands at Nur Khan airbase
Earlier, the former PM landed at the Nur Khan airbase in a chartered plane from Lahore and went to a helipad to travel to Rawalpindi. He was accompanied by a team of doctors and nephew Ahmed Khan Niazi.
Hammad Azhar reaches Lala Musa
'Imran to give nation new plan of action'
In a video message earlier, PTI leader Ali Awan had said the former PM will reach Rawalpindi soon where he will address the party supporters.
"He is a real leader and will give a new plan of action to the nation that will steer the movement towards actual freedom," he said.
Police deployed on all main roads, Red Zone
On Twitter, the Islamabad police said the LEAs “are committed to protect the citizens of the federal capital and all private and public properties and important installations”.
A heavy police force was deployed on all main routes including Red Zone, Faizabad, and Zero Point, the police said.