By Ghulam Haider
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday asked ‘those in power’ to stand with the nation as he resumed PTI’s long march to Islamabad from Kamoke, where a local news channel’s correspondent was crushed to death incidentally a day earlier by the container he was onboard.
“Shocked & deeply saddened by the terrible accident that led to the death of Channel 5 reporter Sadaf Naeem during our March. I have no words to express my sorrow. My prayers & condolences go to the family at this tragic time. We have cancelled our March for today (Sunday)” former Pakistan PM said in a tweet.
Imran Khan has termed this venture as PTI’s Haqeeqi Azadi march, saying that the move is aimed at mobilizing the masses to stand up against the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government comprising an amalgamation of around one dozen of political parties.
The political instability in Pakistan has also fuelled economic uncertainty, with international rating agencies questioning if the current government can maintain difficult economic policies in the face of political pressure and looming elections.
While the masses continue to suffer backbreaking inflation and massive unemployment, the top political and military leadership is busy in a power struggle. Everyone is exposing the other, leaving people confused and angry. The crowd that Imran attracts and may join his long march has a large component of those who are losing hope. Whether Imran succeeds or fails in his target of grabbing power, the people of Pakistan will be the losers either way.
Dispelling the rumours of talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Mr. said that he has a message for those who had “given him [Shehbaz] permission to be in office,” asking “those in power” to observe who the people are standing with while quoting to his recent sweeping electoral victory in recent by-elections.
After criticism over anti-army remarks, former prime minister Imran Khan said that his party wants the Pakistan Army to be “strong” and his “constructive” criticism was not intended to harm the powerful force as he demanded early elections to end the political impasse in the country. “The establishment never stands against the nation because the populace and the armed forces strengthen the country together,” he said, urging the powers-that-be to not support “thieves”.
The PTI chief also clarified that he had criticised the army because he is “a Pakistani who lives in and would die in Pakistan,” and did not “run to London” when there was a case against him, referring to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif who has been living in self-imposed exile in United Kingdom.
The maverick politician once again criticised the establishment, saying that they should “not side with the thieves for Heaven’s sake,” warning that those standing with thieves will be equally responsible. “When Musharraf removed the two families [Sharifs and Bhuttos] for corruption, whole nation stood with the establishment. But now, you have dry-cleaned them and imposed them on us again,” he said.
Terming Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as a powerless premier, the cricketer-turned politician said those who make decisions behind closed doors should not treat the people like animals.
Mr. Khan is leading the long march toward Islamabad, who is at loggerheads with the government for failing to announce fresh general elections date in the country. This is the PTI’s second march towards the Federal capital after he was ousted via a no-confidence motion earlier this year. The 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been mobilizing his supporters towards Islamabad while addressing them at various places, targeting his opponents for alleged corruption.
Khan has been demanding early elections and he is leading the long march towards Islamabad to force his demands. The term of the National Assembly will end in August 2023 and fresh elections should be held within 60 days.
Khan, who was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, has talked about a ‘threat letter’ from the US and claimed that it was part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him as he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy. The US has bluntly rejected the allegations.
‘Revolution through ballot or bloodshed’
Earlier, Mr. Imran highlighted that he had witnessed a “revolution” taking over the country, as he continued his long march for the fourth day.
Taking to his official Twitter handle in the early hours of the day, the deposed premier questioned if the “revolution” which had been going on for “six months” would be a “soft one through the ballot box or a destructive one through bloodshed”.
His remarks came as the party and its supporters continued walking towards the federal capital from Kamoke, demanding immediate elections.
Since the vote of no-confidence against him in April this year, Mr. Khan has won 29 out of 37 seats in by-elections “which is more than a 3/4 majority”.
“People have totally rejected the regime change operation,” the former ruling party declared after Imran won the National Assembly constituency NA-45 Kurram on Sunday, with a significant margin against his rival, JUI-F’s Jamil Khan, who was backed by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
PTI member Fawad Chaudhry told that the march would reach Gujranwala today and convoys of supporters from Karachi will leave for Islamabad via Hyderabad and Sukkur while the convoy from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will leave through Bada for democratic rights.
‘Institutions strong when people support them’
Mr. Khan said that the entire nation was looking to courts for justice. He thanked the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) for hearing lawmaker Azam Swati and his personal aide Shahbaz Gill’s pleas regarding the physical torture against them.
“The country will be strong when the institutions are strong, and institutions are only strong when then nation stands with them,” he said, reiterating that the institutions would lose all power if the people opposed them. He further stated that now was the time for the people to decide, adding that justice would free the people.
Defamation suit against CEC
The ousted premier announced to file a defamation suit of Rs.10 billion against Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sultan Sikander Raja for questioning his integrity in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decisions in prohibited funding and Toshakhana cases.
“Whenever courts against me prove that I have done an illegal thing, I will not wait for the court’s decision to be issued and will back out on my own,” he added, adding that he will take him to court and for putting his reputation at stake.
He claimed that the electoral watchdog’s decisions against him in the Toshakhana and prohibited funding references were given on the directions of the “imported government.”
Imran further alleged that the premier “polished the boots of those who were powerful and oppressed those who were weak”.