LAHORE: Taking his anti-graft mobilisation campaign right up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s home turf, a furious Imran Khan on Friday delivered a speech that tore through the alleged corruption of the Sharifs and targeted India at the same time.
With tens of thousands of supporters watching the firebrand Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman delivering his speech at Adda plot, close to the palatial residence of Sharif in Raiwind, Imran said he would give ‘two strong messages’ — one to Nawaz over his alleged corruption and the other to Indian Premier Narendra Modi regarding threats to Pakistan.
Analysis: Raiwind march and bad timing
Imran gave Sharif time till Muharram to “either present himself for accountability or allow state institutions to take action against him”, failing which the PTI will bring the federal capital to a standstill”.
Hitting out at the prime minister over his ‘corruption’ and ‘stolen money’ as revealed in the Panama Papers, Imran said he would paralyse and oust the government in Islamabad if PM Nawaz does not present himself for accountability till Muharram.
“The Panama leaks is not an allegation but a proof of Nawaz Sharif’s corruption that is all out in the open. Some Rs8.5 billion have been spent on the security of Nawaz Shairf’s Jati Umrah. The staff that PML-N have employed for Jati Umrah, is double than that of the White House. The stolen money has made Nawaz Sharif a coward,” Imran said.
Imran also warned the government that his party would not let them rule after Muharram if the prime minister is not held accountable for the Panama Papers controversy.
The much-hyped rally — which also spawned criticism from opposition groups --was aimed at announcing the party’s future strategy.
Friday’s rally is the last such political gathering called by the party against the PML-N. “We will not hold any more such rallies and instead opt for something else,” the PTI chief said.
PTI raring to show its street power today
“If the situation at the border was not tense, I would have asked you all to stay back here till we get justice,” he told the cheering crowd.
Nevertheless Imran said his party now intends to shut the federal capital and paralyse it – a reprise of its anti-rigging campaign in 2014
He took a swipe at state institutions as well, warning them that they ought to take action before the party was forced to move to Islamabad after Muharram.
In his speech, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak urged his party chief to avoid giving another call for protest and calling on him instead to bring down the walls in a reference to Jati Umrah, which was blocked by containers during the protest.
The aggressive stance was also received by a degree of surprise by Imran, who jovially commented that being a CM he expected Khattak would make a diplomatic statement instead of taking a hard line. Poking fun at the government, he said the “PM suffered indigestion because of corruption”.
Standing atop a 40-foot high stage, Imran paid tribute to his party workers for their patience and resilience. He said they withstood late September temperatures and humidity and took up the challenge of reaching the venue and staying there till the bitter end. The rally drew tens of thousands of people, many of them from all corners of the country, including Balochistan.
Security for PM’s residence
Police had earlier cordoned off the prime minister’s residence by placing containers, barricades and barbed wires on the roads. While as many 7,500 police officials had been deputed for security, a helicopter also conducted aerial surveillance of the venue.
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PTI chief warns Modi
With tensions running high along the Line of Control, Imran warned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that ‘not all Pakistanis are as cowardly as Nawaz’.
“First off, I want to make it clear that I believe in peace, not war. War is never the solution of any problems anywhere. When I met Narendra Modi in India, he agreed to me that we need to work together for peace,” Imran said.
However, he said PM Modi has proved that he is “a prejudiced Indian and not a statesman.”
“Modi has disappointed both India and Pakistan by his politics and lack of statesmanship.”
“I want to tell him that not all Pakistanis love money like Nawaz Sharif does. Modi must remember that not all Pakistanis are cowards like Nawaz Sharif and we know how to respond to such threats.”
Speaking on the Kashmir issue, Imran said: “Human rights are being trampled in Kashmir... And no matter what we’ll support Kashmiris morally and politically.”
He also vowed to support the people of Kashmir because of the conditions there.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2016.