Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday announced that he would reveal the date for the party’s much-anticipated long march on coming Friday, saying that he was not expecting any “meaningful result from backchannel talks”.
The former prime minister, who has constantly been building momentum for the long march but has kept people guessing about its contours, heightened the suspense when he revealed that the final date for the long march would be announced on October 28, warning that the ‘organised protest’ could result into chaos if the government attempted to stop it.
“Political parties always hold backdoor talks but I do not think the ongoing talks will have any meaningful outcome,” the PTI chief said while addressing a news conference, flanked by party leader Azam Swati in Islamabad on Saturday.
He said that the importance of the negotiations was only to the extent of early elections but, it seemed, the incumbent rulers were not going to call snap polls.
The PTI founder said that the “imposed rulers” suffered a humiliating defeat in the recently-held by-polls and realised that they could not compete with PTI in the election. “Therefore,” he said, “they will not call early elections,” adding through an official statement that holding talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was fruitless.
Imran’s statement has come on the heels of PM Shehbaz’s signal that he was ready to shake hands and sit across the table with the PTI chairman in the national interest even though the former premier had avoided every opportunity to talk to him during his rule.
“This time, the march will be peaceful, and people will enjoy it, as people from all walks of life will take part in it," Imran said, saying that it would be the biggest march in Pakistan’s history.
“I am moving forward according to my planning,” he said.
To a question, Imran said that the long march would take place even if he was arrested, adding that if the government attempted to stop his organised and peaceful long march then it would result into chaos.
“We are the specialist of long march, this time it is going to be different,” he added.
The PTI chairman said that their sole demand is the early general elections in the country.
He said that he would not allow the government to torture or harass his party leaders and workers like the last time. “This sort of violence does not take place anywhere in the world,” he said.
Imran also lashed out at the “imported government” for the inhuman treatment that was meted out to its political opponents. He said that the kind of violent tactics being used were unprecedented, adding that “these thieves and criminals imposed through foreign conspiracy” did not care whether the country was going up or down as they flee abroad whenever in trouble.
“Since day one they (the government) want to crush my party, as I have never seen such level of torture in dictatorships,” Imran added, saying what happened to Swati was regrettable.
He also regretted that the judiciary did not take notice of the custodial torture of PTI leader Dr Shahbaz Gill, saying that Swati would have never faced the situation if the judiciary had taken notice of Gill’s torture.
The PTI chairman vowed that he stood with Swati and would take up his custodial torture issue to all forums. He said that the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) officials barged into Swati’s house without any arrest warrants and tortured him in front of his grandchildren “just for tweeting against a powerful person”.
“He was beaten in front of his grandchildren,” Imran lamented, saying, “Swati was later handed over by FIA to another institution where he was beaten for hours after being stripped naked.”
Imran demanded that the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) should take notice of the incident and should summon FIA and question the officials concerned as to whom Swati was handed over after being arrested.
He stated that such actions would not increase the respect of any person or institution but they would create hatred in the society as people would think that some people were above the law.
He asked if the nation would respect the institutions due to the atrocities that they are committing, saying some “unknown persons” were roaming freely and people were frightened to even take their name.
Imran maintained that the unknown persons pick up people over their tweets and force them to give a statement against him. “They are the enemies of the country,” he said, adding such actions will never bring prestige to the institutions.
On the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s decision to disqualify him in the Toshakhana reference, Imran alleged that the chief election commissioner (CEC) was hand in glove with the government while terming him as a “disgraced person”.
While calling the CEC a “servant of Sharif family”, he said that he could never give such a decision by himself, saying another thing to be seen was if someone “booted” the decision or not.
Imran regretted that Ishaq Dar was made the finance minister despite his confessional statement against Sharifs for whom he used to do “money laundering”, adding that billions of rupees’ corruption cases of the “big thieves” was being waived off. He also gave the credit of exiting FATF’s grey list to the PTI government and his team.
Speaking on the occasion, Senator Swati revealed that he was subjected to custodial torture and vowed that he would expose the elements who unclothed him and brought disgrace to the upper house of the parliament.
He said that being a lawyer and senator, he would urge the judiciary to take suo motu notice of his custodial torture, adding that he would knock the doors of every national and international body for getting justice since arresting somebody without committing a crime was unlawful.
Swati said that today it was him, but the day was not far when a judge could be a victim.
“I along with my three granddaughters will come to the Supreme Court,” he said, saying his three granddaughters were still traumatised by what they saw. “I ask the chief justice of Pakistan to not let these flames reach the judiciary,” he urged.
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