Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan told tens of thousands of supporters Saturday he would fight with his "last drop of blood" in a first public address since being shot in an assassination attempt earlier this month.
The shooting was the latest twist in months of political turmoil that began in April when Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament.
Saturday's rally was the climax of a so-called "long march" by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to press the government to call a snap election before parliament's term expires in October next year.
"I have seen death from up close," said Khan, who hobbled to the stage with a walking frame to speak to supporters from a plush seat behind a panel of bulletproof glass.
"I'm more worried about the freedom of Pakistan than my life," he told the crowd. "I will fight for this country until my last drop of blood."
The rally was squeezed onto a motorway in Rawalpindi, a garrison city neighbouring the capital Islamabad and home to the headquarters of the country's powerful military.
Khan attracts cultish devotion from supporters, but on Saturday made his speech hundreds of metres from the bulk of the crowd of around 25,000 to 30,000, separated by coils of barbed wire and a buffer of police officers.
In the November 3 assassination attempt, a gunman opened fire from close range as Khan's open-top container truck made its way through a crowded street.
Buildings overlooking the site of the rally were searched overnight, a police official said, while snipers were perched on rooftops surveying the mostly male supporters whipping red and green flags back and forth.
Khan himself was surrounded by a crush of bodyguards at all times, while mobile phone signals were jammed in the vicinity.
Authorities threw a ring of steel around Islamabad to prevent his supporters from marching on government buildings, with thousands of security personnel deployed and roads blocked by shipping containers.
Khan-led protests in May spiralled into 24 hours of chaos, with the capital blockaded and running clashes across Pakistan between police and protesters.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah – who Khan accuses of being involved in the assassination plot – issued a "red alert" on Friday, warning of security threats to the rally.
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. (AFP)