Imran says no deal
with establishment or
anyone, protest called off
to avert bloodshed

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“I feared bloodshed would take place as police were firing tear gas and baton charging at protestors, if election not announced in six days, will come back to Islamabad”; also sends letter to CJP

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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday said he had called off this week’s anti-government protest fearing violence and bloodshed, rejecting reports he had reached an agreement with the country’s powerful military establishment.

“No one should consider this [calling off the march] as our weakness,” Imran Khan told reporters on Friday. “And no one should also think that we struck a deal with anyone. I’m hearing people say we struck a deal with the establishment. We have not struck a deal with anyone,” he added. 

Imran Khan said he had decided to call off the march as he feared bloodshed and conflict would take place in the country.  “If I was not concerned about the country … I knew that bloodshed would take place that night,” he said, referring to police firing tear gas at protesters and baton charging them.

PESHAWAR: Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a press conference in Peshawar on Friday.

Imran Khan warned the government he would march to the capital again if it did not announce an election date. “Let me clarify that if they do not announce clearly the date for elections after dissolving the assemblies,” he said, “I will come out [to protest] again and this time, with preparation.”

Imran Khan dispelled reports that he had struck a deal in exchange for ending the party’s Azadi March, saying that he did so in order to avoid bloodshed. He expressed the views while addressing a press conference in Peshawar, adding that he would take to the streets again if early elections were not announced. He regretted how police officials attacked the participants of the march, blaming the government for hand-picking officers to target the PTI.

“Our workers asked why we did not stage a sit-in. I am the man who staged a sit-in for 126 days. It was not difficult for me, but by the time I reached I became aware of the extent of the situation […] I knew that day that there would be bloodshed.”

Imran said the people were “ready” after seeing the “terrorism” carried out through the police. “Everyone was ready to fight, some of our people were so angered by what they saw,” he said, adding that officials were instructed to brutalise protesters.

“The anger at the time, if I had staged a sit-in that day I can guarantee that there would have been bloodshed,” he said, adding that there was a prevailing sense of hatred against police officials.

“But the police is also ours, it is not their fault,” the PTI chairman said, blaming the government for issuing the directives. If there was violence then it would only have caused chaos in the country, he said.

“Do not think it was our weakness and don’t think that a deal was made. I am hearing strange things that a deal was made with the establishment. I did not make a deal with anyone,” he said, adding that the only motive behind his actions was concern for the country.

He also made it clear that the PTI would not negotiate with or accept the “imported government”. “I think of this as a jihad. I will stand up against this as long as I am alive,” he said, reiterating that he only cared about the future of the country.

Letter to CJP

Lamenting how people were injured due to shelling at Islamabad’s D-Chowk, Imran said he had written to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial asking whether or not the party had the right to stage a peaceful protest in a democracy.

“This is the fundamental right of a citizen […] I ask our judiciary, do you think we will remain silent [like] sheep and accept all of this? If you think this, it means that we are pushing the country towards treason. If you do not allow people to stage peaceful protests, what other options do they have left?”

He said that he had written a letter to the CJP to make his position “clear”, reiterating that he would take to the streets again after six days. In six days we will find out whether or not the apex court protects our fundamental rights, he said.

The manner in which lawyers and women were forced to disembark from a bus and were “beaten”, had anyone seen something like that before, he asked.

“Which justice system allows this? The entire nation should know who stands for [their] rights and who is carrying out oppression.”

Responding to a question from a reporter, Imran reiterated that the party would take to the streets once again after the six-day deadline, calling on the SC to provide protection. But if the government uses the same tactics then they will be responsible for the direction the country will head toward, he added.

Imran also said that the door for negotiating with the government was always open. “We are not here to fight. Our only objective is elections in June and dissolution of assemblies.”

He said that the best way to achieve this would be to do this through talks, but if they did not succeed then protests would be the way to go.

Govt succumbed to IMF pressure

Talking about the decision to hike the prices of all petroleum products by Rs30, Imran lambasted the government for “succumbing” to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) pressure, asking whether such a massive hike had been seen ever before.

“When we were raising petrol prices due to a global increase in prices […] at one point we decided that we would not further burden the people […] we decided petrol prices would not be increased till June.”

The PTI chairman said that the government’s decision would impact the prices of all commodities. “They were not able to bear the IMF’s pressure. They don’t have the capacity to withstand pressure as it is. I have concluded that external forces do not want Pakistan to stand on its own two feet.”

Imran said that the government did not have the ability to manage the country, pointing out how the rupee had depreciated and inflation had soared since it assumed charge.

Do they not know it will give way to resentment among the people, he asked, highlighting the current situation in Sri Lanka. “Look at where Sri Lanka is within a matter of a few months. They are pushing us in that direction.”