Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan finally kicked off his party’s long march from Lahore to Islamabad on Friday, telling supporters that his march was not for politics but for the ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ of Pakistan.
The march set off from the Libery Chowk after the Friday prayers. Imran reached the starting point of the long march by a container along with other senior party leaders.
Initially, it was announced that the march would start from the Liberty Chowk at 11am but later the PTI leadership said that Imran would begin the journey after Friday prayers.
A large number of PTI workers from Lahore and other parts of the country had started gathering at the venue in the morning. The charged crowd welcomed their leader with loud sloganeering when he reached there.
Addressing the supporters, the PTI chairman said that the only objective and demand of the long march was the free and fair elections in the country, which would guarantee true independence in Pakistan.
“The time has come for us to start the journey of real freedom of this country,” Imran said, stressing that he was embarking upon the most important journey in his political career spanning over 26 years.
“My march is not for politics, not for elections or personal interests, but only for the purpose that the nation should be truly free, the former prime minister said from atop the container.
“Our decisions should not be taken in Washington or in Britain, rather Pakistan’s decisions must be taken in Pakistan and for the [benefit of the] people of Pakistan,” he said.
The PTI chairman further said that he wanted to see Pakistan as a country where the people’s rights were protected and everyone was equal in the eyes of the law.
Repeating the allegations of corruption against the government, Imran said that the rulers just wanted to end the cases against them. “This corrupt government is involved in Rs1,100 billion corruption,” he charged.
“At present, the people are facing numerous problems, including unprecedented inflation caused by this corrupt ‘imported’ government but the government was busy ending their cases,” he reiterated.
“If the ‘handlers’ of the corrupt government think that the people will accept this charade, then they are wrong; they will never accept these thieves at any cost,” he maintained.
While referring to the PTI leader Azam Swati’s press conference, Imran commended the PTI senator for showing courage by unveiling the names of the military officers allegedly responsible for his custodial torture.
“Azam Swati took the names of two persons, Faheem and Faisal. Ever since they came to the capital, they have been manhandling people. The ‘Dirty Harry’ picked up Swati illegally, stripped him naked and then tortured him in front of his grandchildren,” Khan claimed.
He added that Faisal and Faheem were also responsible for the torture on Shahbaz Gill and journalist Jameel Farooqui. “The arrest of Swati brought embarrassment to Pakistan and the army was defamed,” he added.
Urging army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to remove the two officers, Imran mentioned that “when Bilawal Bhutto gave a statement against then ISI [Intern-Services Intelligence] sector commander in Karachi, you removed” the official.
“Now, remove them too. These people are defaming General Bajwa,” Imran said, adding that the whole episode of Swati earned “Pakistan a bad name in the international community and our democracy” was ridiculed.
“The army is ours and we want to see our institution grow strong and peace in the country, but such happenings will not benefit the army and the country,” he added.
Imran also touched upon Thursday’s news conference by the ISI director general. “He [ISI DG] said that the institution was apolitical, but I witnessed a political press conference that even Sheikh Rashid never held,” he said.
“It was not an impartial press conference; it was all about me and nothing was said about the thieves,” the PTI chief added, while referring to the coalition government.
Addressing the ISI DG, Imran said that he knew many secrets, but in the interest of the country and the institution he was silent. “I do not want to hurt Pakistan or weaken our institutions”.
“I am not an absconder like Nawaz Sharif, who remained silent in Pakistan but after fleeing to the UK started criticising the army. I make criticism for the betterment of the country. I will not leave this country and remain here to continue with the struggle,” he added.
He also clarified that he never made unconstitutional demands; “I only want free and fair elections in the country and let the people choose their leader to run the affairs of their country”.
He assured that the march would remain peaceful and remain within the law. “In Islamabad, we will gather at the place designated by the Supreme Court; we will not enter the Red Zone and we will remain peaceful,” he said.
On the occasion, senior party leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Ali Zaidi, Shafqat Mahmood, Faisal Javed Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Musarat Jamshed Cheema and other leaders were seen on the container that led the march.
All leaders and participants of the march took an oath to obey the Constitution and remain peaceful and continue their struggle under the leadership of Imran Khan in all circumstances.
Later, the long march proceeded towards Islamabad from Liberty Chowk. On the first day of the march, the PTI held power shows at Ichhra, Mozang, Data Sahib and Azadi Chowk.
On the second day, the convoy will march to Kamoke via Muridke, where the PTI chairman was expected to address his supporters. Afterwards, the rally will proceed towards Gujranwala City where Imran will address a public gathering.
After Gujranwala, the rally will proceed to Sialkot via Daska and Sambrial, and it will conclude at Wazirabad for an overnight stay. The next morning, as per the itinerary of the long march, the convoy will head towards Gujarat.
Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and former federal minister Moonis Elahi will welcome the rally in Gujarat, and Imran was expected to address a public gathering there.
Later, the convoy will head towards Lala Musa and Kharrian. The next day, the march will go to Jhelum where former federal minister Fawad Chaudhary was expected to greet the convoy.
From there, Imran Khan will travel to Rawalpindi via Gujar Khan. At Rawat, various PTI convoys from north and south of Punjab will also join the long march.
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