PESHAWAR: PTI Chairman Imran Khan said on Monday that if the Supreme Court does not provide his party “protection” from police action for the next round of their protest, he would opt for a different strategy wherein his supporters would be “prepared” to deal with the situation.
Addressing a lawyers’ convention in Peshawar, the former prime minister said: “If they (SC) don’t give us protection, today I stand here in front of you and say that I will have another strategy.”
Under this strategy, Imran said the PTI would make a plan for dealing with the obstacles. “[That] time round we weren’t prepared […] we were stuck unprepared. This time we will be prepared,” he said, declaring that this was a jihad for him. “I will not accept this imported government at any cost.”
Imran march for haqeeqi azadi — true freedom — was preceded by the authorities invoking of Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were put in place on major thoroughfares to block their path.
Undeterred by the moves, the marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse them. Police also charged at them with batons.
PTI’s Azam Swati has also filed a police complaint seeking the registration of a first information report (FIR) against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Inspector General of Police Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir and others over “police brutality and unreasonable use of force” against PTI supporters.
During his speech, Imran came down hard on the ruling coalition, reiterating that they were brought in through a “foreign conspiracy”. He also lambasted the government for the crackdown on the participants of the much hyped but short-lived Azadi March held on May 25.
“We have asked for a ruling from the SC over whether or not we have the democratic right to stage a peaceful protest? If this is a democracy […] under what basis were we stopped? How can they stop the chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan?” he asked.
He asserted that his party did not have a “history of violence”, pointing to the PTI’s 126-day sit-in in Islamabad in 2014. He said that he called of the sit-in on May 25 in an effort to avoid bloodshed.
He said that the current political milieu of the country was posing a real challenge for the judiciary as well as the lawyers in the country. “I, therefore, want the lawyer’s community to support me as they and the judiciary as a whole play an important role in saving the country,” he said.
During the speech, Khan once again criticised the incumbent government and blamed it for conspiring with the United States to oust him.
The PTI chairman then went on to explain how US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu threatened the Pakistani ambassador to the US and detailed how, according to him, the PTI-led government was removed from power by the then opposition.
Praising this government’s performance, the ex-PM claimed that Pakistan performed better in the last two years in the economic sector as compared to the past. “The country grew economically by 5.6% in 2021 and 6% in 2022,” said Khan, adding that the country achieved record tax collection targets during his tenure.
“India — which is a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) country — bought oil from Russia at lower prices and has reduced the petroleum prices in its country while our government increased the prices.”
Khan said that Pakistan has been ruled by the military but two political families — Sharifs and Zardaris — monopolised the political area and remained in power for the last 62 years. “I ruled for three-and-a-half years and they started having issues with my government just because Pakistan wanted to maintain cordial relations with other countries but refused to fight their wars,” he said.
He then criticised the former government for allowing the United States to allow drone attacks in Pakistan. “We had no relation will 9/11. I will not give Pakistan’s bases to America,” said the former PM, adding that Pakistan neither wanted bad relations with any country nor did it want to become their slave.
Talking about the Masjid-e-Nabawi (PBUH) incident, Khan said that the current government was “cursed by Allah to the point that people, even when they were present at a holy place, couldn’t stop themselves from chanting slogans against these corrupt leaders.”
“What was our [PTI’s] fault if ordinary people chanted slogans against these people in Madinah?” the former premier questioned.