Thousands gather in Pakistani capital as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Khan  Imran Khan News

Thousands gather in Pakistani capital as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Khan Imran Khan News

Islamabad, Pakistan – Tens of thousands of activists from Pakistan’s ruling party and opposition groups have gathered in the capital, Islamabad, ahead of a parliamentary vote on overthrowing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

Khan, amid mounting political pressure, had called on supporters from across the country to gather for a show of force on Sunday ahead of the crucial vote expected next week.

“It’s a fight for the future of our nation,” the politician-turned-cricketer said in an audio message posted on Twitter on Sunday.

Activists from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party arrived at the venue early in the morning, a parade ground near the Faizabad Interchange, which people attended danced to party anthems and shouted slogans like “Long live Imran Khan”.

PTI executives said they expected more than a million people to attend the rally, although some say the venue cannot accommodate more than 30,000 people.

At Sunday’s rally, Khan said there was a “foreign conspiracy” behind the no-confidence motion and that “funds were being funneled into Pakistan from abroad.

“We have received written threats, but we will not compromise on national interests,” he said, without giving details or evidence.

A coalition of opposition parties has accused Khan’s government of corruption and bad governance of the country amid a growing economic crisis.

Opposition supporters also gather in Islamabad ahead of planned anti-Khan protests on Monday.

Supporters of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party began a “long march” on Saturday from the eastern city of Lahore, the political bastion of Sharif, and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party to the capital.

Thousands of activists from the conservative party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) are also marching in Islamabad to join the anti-government protests.

Special security precautions were taken for the rallies and about 13,000 personnel, including paramilitary forces, were deployed to different parts of the city to prevent clashes.

The opposition is expected to submit a motion of no confidence on Monday. After at least three days of debate, the vote can take place and must take place within seven days.

Activists from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposition party take part in an anti-government march from Lahore towards IslamabadOpposition PML-N activists take part in an anti-government march from Lahore to Islamabad [Arif Ali/AFP]

“More hype than reality”

The PTI was criticized for not allowing media cameras at Sunday’s rally over security concerns.

“I think there is more hype than reality [about the number of people] and PTI does not want this exposed,” local journalist Kamran Yousaf, whose media team was denied entry, told Al Jazeera.

Outside the parade ground, a few stalls were set up overnight. Among them was 40-year-old salesman Muhammad Imran, who came from the port city of Karachi to sell T-shirts imprinted with “Absolutely Not” – Khan’s response to the handing over of Pakistani bases to the United States for post-takeover operations in Afghanistan by the Taliban Kabul.

City streets were covered with colorful banners from various parties and portraits of Khan, while the city exuded a festive atmosphere as a number of young activists descended on Islamabad.

“Khan will defeat the looters [opposition groups] and we have come to support him regardless of his shortcomings,” Usman Ali, a student, told Al Jazeera.

But a few yards away, 18-year-old Muhammad Awais, who was busy selling white chana chaat, a local delicacy, was furious with Khan’s government.

“We, the poor, have been hit hard by ever-increasing food prices and declining incomes,” Awais said.

“Your days are numbered”

As Sunday’s rally began, PTI leaders lashed out at the opposition.

“[Khan] has the courage and ability to withstand foreign pressure and conduct an independent foreign policy,” said Qasim Suri, deputy speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, in a speech.

But the PTI, which commands a razor-thin majority in the National Assembly, is losing allies — with a string of resignations ahead of the confidence vote.

Baloch leader Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti announced his resignation as minister and said he would join the opposition.

Khan came to power in 2018 national elections marred by allegations that he was backed by Pakistan’s powerful military.

But some say he now appears to have lost the support of the military.

“He came to power after being patronized [by the military]. We are not afraid of his threats and rallies,” Rana Sanaullah, a close associate of Sharif, told reporters in the capital.

“Her [government] The days are numbered,” he said.