“I am not anti-America at all. I want friendship with America. But I don't want slavery," says opposition leader Khan in his address to tens of thousands of supporters in eastern Lahore city.
Pakistan's ex-premier Imran Khan has said he is not "anti-American" as he addressed tens of thousands of supporters during a rally celebrating the 75th anniversary of the South Asian country's independence in eastern Lahore city.
"I have never been against any country. They (critics) call me anti-American. I am not anti-American," Khan said during his speech late on Saturday, as he sought snap elections and vowed to bring "real freedom" to the country.
Khan, who served as prime minister for over three and half years, was ousted in April through a no-confidence vote in parliament by an alliance of all major political parties.
Khan immediately blamed US for his ouster and has been criticising Washington since then in massive rallies and alleging its backs current government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif – a claim Sharif and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) party rubbishes.
On Saturday, Khan said he is not against US but "I don't want slavery".
"In America, Pakistani American community is the most powerful community. Why should I be against such a country where most skilled, wealthy and professional Pakistanis are living?" he told the crowd.
"Pakistan's export volume to America is the biggest. So, I am not anti-America at all. I want friendship with America. But I don't want slavery."
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is reported to have hired an American lobbying and PR firm at a cost of $25,000 a month to manage its public and media relations in US.
READ MORE: Pakistan election agency rules ex PM Khan's party received illegal funds
Khan and his party came under the spotlight after he went ahead with a visit to Moscow in late February as fears of a military offensive were growing, and met Vladimir Putin a few hours after the Russian president had ordered his troops into Ukraine.
Defending his visit on Saturday, Khan said he was seeking a cheaper gas option for Pakistan, but the US grew concerned because he "didn't listen to their orders."
The international cricket hero came to power in 2018, voted in by an electorate weary of the dynastic politics of the country's two major parties.
Khan and the nation's powerful military deny backing each other then or having fallen out recently.
He was brought down by opposition parties in part, as critics say, by his failure to rectify the country's dire economic situation, including its crippling debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.
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