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Long march: Wed 25-05 Time 03.00pm “dissolve assemblies, announce election”

PESHAWAR: PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced on Sunday that his “Azadi March”, his much-awaited long march, will arrive in Islamabad on May 25 and asked his workers to meet him at 3pm at the federal capital’s Srinagar Highway.

Khan made the announcement while holding a press conference in Peshawar after concluding a meeting of the PTI’s core committee.

The former prime minister was flanked by several PTI leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mahmood Khan, Pervez Khatak and Fawad Choudhary and other party leaders but minus Secretary General Asad Umar for unknown reasons.

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, center front, speaks during a press conference in Peshawar on May 22, 2022.

At the beginning of the press briefing, Imran Khan praised the progress his government made during its tenure and criticised the incumbent setup for pushing the country towards bankruptcy.

He then reiterated that despite his efforts, a United States-backed conspiracy, “hatched in connivance with the previous Opposition”, ended up becoming successful in removing him.

Imran Khan announced that his party’s long march towards Islamabad for the country’s “battle for real freedom” would begin on May 25. He said the main demands for the march to the capital were the immediate dissolution of the National Assembly and a date for the next general election. He also told the military and establishment to stick to its stated stance of being “neutral”.

“Today we held our core committee meeting and made [important] decisions,” Imran, flanked by the who’s who of the PTI leadership, said at the start of his press conference. “The biggest [question] was when to begin the long march, and we have decided.

“I want to give a little background of how we reached here. There was a foreign conspiracy against Pakistan from the US. In this regime change, they used locals — the most corrupt people, who were ready to become part of any conspiracy to save their corruption.

“This conspiracy was hatched eight months ago and I was alerted about it in June, and after August, I fully understood what was happening. We did our best that somehow this conspiracy could be voided but unfortunately we couldn’t stop it.”

PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a press conference in Peshawar.

The PTI chairman explained in detail his allegations of conspiracy as well as the purpose of his march before announcing the date.

“On the 25th [of May] I will meet you in Islamabad on the Srinagar Highway,” Imran said addressing his supporters and party workers. “You have to reach there at 3pm. I invite all the women because I’ve seen your anger. I had never seen that before.

“I want people from all [walks of life] to come because this is Jihad, and not politics. I’ve decided and told all my team that we have to be ready to sacrifice our lives.”

Imran indicated that the march would convert into a sit-in and continue until his demands are accepted. “We will never under any situation accept them. No matter how long we have to remain in Islamabad we will remain there.”

NA dissolution, election date main demands

He said the march would have two primary demands: dissolution of assemblies and a date for elections.

The former prime minister called for fair and transparent elections, adding that if the nation were to bring the current government back into power then he would accept it. “But, no country from outside will [be allowed to] impose them on us,” he added.

Imran told his supporters to prepare beforehand for factors such as “communication, transport and fuel”, predicting that the government would use various obstacles to impede the march.

He stressed that the party had always remained peaceful in its protests, adding that same would be true for the upcoming march, as he called on women, children and families to participate in “Pakistan’s battle for real freedom”.

Addressing the bureaucracy, Imran warned that if any “wrong” actions were to be taken regarding the party’s “peaceful protest”, then that “would be illegal and we will take action against you”.

Imran tells military to stick to ‘being neutral’

Regarding the military establishment, he said: “I also say to my army that you said you are neutral so now remain neutral.” However, he said that he wanted to invite everyone to the march, including the families of civil servants, army personnel and ex-servicemen.

Imran lashed out at the government’s economic management, saying that the rupee and stock market were seeing rapid declines, which would lead to more inflation.

“They don’t have any plan or a roadmap. They can’t take decisions. They fear taking decisions and they don’t want to put a burden on themselves,” he said.

The PTI chief’s announcement came after the party’s core committee held a meeting in the provincial capital earlier in the day.

Prior to the meeting spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif said Imran would preside over the meeting and many important decisions will be taken in the meeting.

Addressing a public rally in Multan on Friday, Imran had announced that a date for the Azadi March to Islamabad would be decided today during the core committee meeting. He had also announced the expected dates would be between May 25 to 29.

The PTI leader had said that besides deciding the date for the long march, the core committee would also discuss the preparations required for the march.

“The core committee will also chalk out a plan on how to handle the expected arrests of the PTI leaders and road blockages to stop them from marching on Islamabad,” he had said.

Since his ouster as prime minister on April 10, Imran has held a series of large public rallies across the country, terming his ouster a foreign conspiracy and urging the public to prepare for a march to the capital to pressure the authorities into accepting his demand for immediate elections in the country.