At least seven people were killed Friday in a stampede at an anti-government rally featuring Pakistani political leader Imran Khan. This marks the second time a deadly stampede has occurred at a protest rally organized by Khan, who has been demanding that current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down.
After Khan spoke at the rally at a stadium filled with more than 40,000 people in the city of Multan in eastern Punjab province, many of his supporters rushed out of the venue’s gates, the Associated Press reported. Stampede victims were brought to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Zahid Saleem, a government official, blamed rally organizers for the mishap, while Khan’s party members, who are seeking to oust Sharif’s government, blamed local authorities.
“This incident took place because of the negligence of the local administration. We hold it responsible for this tragedy at our rally,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior official from Khan’s party, said Saturday, according to AP.
The anti-government protests in Pakistan began in August when Khan and cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri claimed the elections that brought Sharif to power last year were rigged. In one case, the protests that month saw almost 70,000 people stormed the capital of Islamabad, raising fears a military intervention might result.
Also in August, seven people were killed and nearly 500 people were arrested by Pakistani police after clashes erupted during an anti-government rally in the northeastern city of Lahore.