Imran calls for ‘inflation protest’ on Sunday

PTI chief says institutions protecting democracy are under threat


Waqas Ahmad/Saqib Bashir June 16, 2022
PTI Chairman Imran Khan delivering a video message to his supporters. SCREEGRAB

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ISLAMABAD:

Former prime minister Imran Khan urged the people on Thursday to take to the streets on Sunday to stage a “peaceful demonstration” against rising inflation, particularly the massive increase in the prices of petroleum products.

In a recorded video message, Imran accused the current government of being “incapable of handling the economy” and warned that prices would soar even higher in the days to come if the nation “kept sitting idly”.

“I am inviting the entire nation for a peaceful protest against inflation on Sunday (June 19) at 9pm. I invite trade unions, professionals, doctors, engineers, clerks, and government workers to take to the streets,” the former prime minister said.

He said he wanted to ask the rulers why they “indulged in a conspiracy”, when they were not capable of handling the economy and the country. He reminded the people of the anti-inflation narrative of the previous opposition, adding: “Now the reality is before everyone.”

Imran said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was also pressing the then PTI government to raise fuel prices, but “we reserved Rs200 billion in subsidies, realising the impending impact of fuel price hike on the public.”

This government had raised the price of petrol by Rs85 in mere 20 days, he said, expressing the apprehension that the prices would go even further up. Any further increase, he warned, would wreak “havoc” with the country’s economy.

Imran also invited political parties to join the protest. He said that the PTI government had left electricity tariff at Rs16 per unit, which had now gone up to Rs29.5 per unit. The tariff, he said, would also increase further.

Imran repeated his stance that the PTI government was removed through a conspiracy. “The allies left us due to the conspiracy against us. I want to put the facts in front of the nation. The truth will eventually come out.”

Earlier, addressing the lawyers in Islamabad, Imran said that all the institutions protecting democracy in the country were in danger, and warned that if the nation did not take action today, no prime minister in the future would be able to pursue an independent foreign policy.

Imran said that he had already warned the establishment about the conspiracy against his government and its impact on the country’s economy. He added that on his direction, the then finance minister Shaukat Tareen had given a briefing to the “neutrals”.

Also read: Imran invites lawyers to join 'real freedom movement'

Imran dilated at length on the events leading to the no-confidence motion against him. “I was told that I should have accepted the no-confidence motion,” he said. Now, I present the facts to you and ask should I have done so [accept the no-trust]?”

The former prime minister reiterated that the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia met the then Pakistani ambassador in Washington and asked him why prime minister Imran Khan had gone to Russia and that the US was very angry about it.

The US official said that if Imran Khan was not removed, then Pakistan would face great difficulties, the PTI chief continued. By then the no-confidence motion had not been tabled in the National Assembly, he added.

“The no-confidence motion was tabled in the assembly on March 8 and all of a sudden our allies realised that the government is very bad. The US embassy was repeatedly meeting with 15 to 20 turncoats in our party,” he said.

“The US embassy [also] began meeting with opposition leaders. Our [provincial] minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Atif Khan, was also approached so that a no-confidence motion could also be tabled in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Imran told the lawyers.

After that, the PTI chief continued, the then government allies parted ways. Besides, he added, there was a “market at the Sindh House” in the federal capital, where Rs200 million were offered to the lawmakers to switch loyalties. “Ultimately, the government fell,” he said.

Imran recalled that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had written in his book that the US had threatened with bombing Pakistan if he did not support its war. “In the war on terror, 400 drone strikes took place and scores of civilians died but no-one raised any voice,” he said.

“We knelt before the US. This is slavery and I stood up against this slavery. It was easy for me to say that I would not go to Russia. But my purpose of going to Russia was to buy wheat and oil at a lower price. It was good for the people, not for me,” he continued.

“Any other prime minister, when threatened, would have done the same what Musharraf did,” Imran said, stressing that if the nation did not take action against it today, no prime minister in future would be able to pursue an independent foreign policy.

He insisted that he knew “Americans very well”, saying: “As long as you bow to America they will demand of you to do more. But once you have stood up for your rights, if you stand up in the interests of your country, they will respect you.”

Commenting on the decision taken in the National Security Council (NSC) meeting, Imran said that the forum “acknowledged that there has been interference”. If there had been interference, he said, “shouldn’t it be investigated?”

About his more than three year period in government, Imran said that he faced difficulties in the first year because when the PTI government took over, the country was headed towards bankruptcy. “Without the help of the friendly countries, we would have defaulted,” he said.

“The first year passed with great difficulty, but in the second year coronavirus broke out. There was pressure on us for the lockdown, but we resisted the pressures from all over the world and two years later, the world appreciated how we dealt with the pandemic,” he added.

Overall, the prime minister said that PTI government showed the best economic performance. In our government, agriculture, industry and textiles grew tremendously. The country was moving in the right direction.”

He said that when a capable government came, they would have a road map and when they start taking such steps, the confidence of the market would not be lost and the value of the rupee in the market would not fall.

“If this government continues then it is feared that Pakistan will be weakened further and the country might face the situation like that of Sri Lanka. The only one thing that can take the country out of this quagmire is clean and transparent elections,” he said.

Imran reminded that the founders of Pakistan were all lawyers while the legal fraternity played a major role in the independence movement. “You have the biggest role to play for the rule of law and real freedom of Pakistan today,” he said. “Lawyers will have to come out.”

Referring to the corruption cases against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders, he said that bringing the rich under the rule of law was a jihad.

Regarding the amendments in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws, he said that the changes were aimed at ending NAB. “End of NAB means end of all cases,” he said. Addressing the lawyers directly, he added: “The supremacy of law is being buried in front of you.”

What would happen in a parliament, he continued, where Raja Riaz was the opposition leader, who had himself said that he would contest the next election on PML-N ticket. “This means that parliament is over, too.”

The PTI chairman lashed out at the government for “a brutal crackdown” on the PTI supporters during the May 25 long march towards Islamabad. He said that police brutalities committed against the marchers were unprecedented.

“When we took to the streets for the independence of the judiciary under Pervez Musharraf, I was the only leader who was imprisoned,” he said. “But in this crackdown, what happened to the women and children at D-Chowk was worse than that. Under what law was this done?”

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