Upping the ante in his drive to force the coalition government into early elections, former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday said he had decided to opt out of a “corrupt system and quit all assemblies”.
Moreover, he called off his much-anticipated long march on the federal capital, saying he anticipated havoc and disorder in the country.
“My party has decided not to remain part of the current political system and will instead resign from all the assemblies,” the PTI chief said in his first in-person address at the mammoth rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Imran – whose party is at the helm of affairs in power in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan – sprung the surprise card on the government in an apparently proverbial ‘burn-the-boats’ decision, staking his provincial governments on a bid to trigger early elections “as the nation stands at the crossroads”.
It was being reported that the 'masterstroke' was up Imran's sleeve until Saturday's mega rally and even the party workers were not filled in on the plan.
Without sharing further details of his decision, Imran said that he would soon be meeting his chief ministers and the parliamentary party about the matter and would soon make the announcement about when the party would leave the assemblies.
“They [government] cannot afford Islamabad march... they cannot stop millions from entering Islamabad. We could have created Sri Lanka-like situation,” he said.
“If riots take place then things will get out of everyone’s hands. I tried my best not to take any step which could create chaos in the country,” he stressed and said that instead of causing harm to our country, it was better to “leave this corrupt system”.
Imran further said that his party did not come to Rawalpindi for elections or politics but emphasised that it was the need of the country to have fresh elections. He added he did not care about elections since they would be held in nine months and his party would win them anyway.
The former prime minister – ousted in April through an assemblage of opposition parties – had embarked on the long march in October from Lahore with the demand. The march was temporarily halted after the gun attack on him on November 3.
Earlier during the beginning of his address, the PTI chief urged his supporters to free themselves from the fear of death if they wanted to live freely.
“Fear makes an entire nation into slaves,” he said, referring to the incident of Imam Husain’s martyrdom and how the people of Kufa did not come to his help due to fear of reprisal from the authorities.
He said there were two paths before the nation on which the people could tread out of their volition: one belonged to prosperity blessings from Allah while the other one led to destruction and slavery
He deplored that decisions about giving out NROs were being taken behind closed doors. “If we accept this cruelty, there is no difference between sheep and us humans.”
The former prime minister went on to stress that human society was based on the principles of justice in contrast to the society of animals where the rule of might prevailed. He lamented that there was never a rule of law in Pakistan, adding that no society could develop without justice.
The country’s current woes, he continued, were not due to a lack of resources but due to the absence of rule of law.
He hit out at the Sharif and Zardari families and accused them of making decisions and key appointments in their favour instead of the national interest.
Commenting on the cypher he alleges is the evidence of the foreign conspiracy that toppled his government in April, Imran lashed out at all those quarters who accused his party of concocting a “false narrative” about regime change and said they were actually part of the conspiracy itself.
He questioned whether the cypher did not exist or was not put before the National Security Council or whether US ambassador Donald Lu had not had a conversation with Pakistan envoy Asad Majeed.
On Saturday, Imran arrived on stage using a walking frame and addressed the crowd from behind bulletproof glass. He said he had been told by various security sources there was still a threat to his life.
“When I was leaving for Rawalpindi from Lahore, everyone advised me against travelling due to wounds in my leg,” the former PM said at the start of his address.
He alleged that “three criminals” were waiting to take a shot at him again, adding that he had a close encounter with death and had seen bullets flying overhead during the attack on him.
“When I fell down, I knew Allah saved me,” he said.
The PTI on Friday was allowed by the Rawalpindi administration on a 56-point permit to stage its sit-in near Faizabad on Saturday, despite the looming security threats.
Separately, PTI leader Asad Umar had claimed that attempts were being made to disrupt the party’s “peaceful” rally in Rawalpindi and that the deposed premier was in danger as the Islamabad administration was not allowing him to reach the venue in a helicopter.
The district commissioner of Rawalpindi also reviewed the security arrangements at the venue and the rally stage along with other officials.
Imran also came out all guns blazing at the establishment once again during his much-anticipated address and alleged that the establishment and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had united with those in the current government against him but the nation had sent a clear message by standing with the PTI.
“I remember what happened in East Pakistan … we did not do justice with them or with Pakistan’s biggest political party and we did not learn.”
The PTI chief went on to say that he had failed in succeeding in one particular thing during his three-and-a-half years at the helm, regretting he could not bring the powerful under the law.
He said that as prime minister, he did not receive full cooperation from certain quarters not directly under his control, such as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as "they received orders from somewhere else”.
This, he alleged, prevented him from bringing the powerful and corrupt to justice during his tenure, adding that institutions were not truly under his control.
“The ones who had control never gave an order [to proceed with investigations]. Instead of putting them (criminals) in jails, they (the establishment) were making deals with them.”
He said those “who had power” did not consider corruption to be wrong.
However, the former premier maintained that criticised institutions including the military establishment and judiciary because “I have to live and die here”.
“My criticism of institutions is positive. I want to strengthen the defence of the country. This country is mine… army is mine. I will fight for the country till the last drop of my blood. I want my country to achieve real freedom. History will bear witness that Imran Khan fought for the country till the last ball.”
He said the one who increased his assets and violated human rights will be judged by history as to whether his actions benefited or caused harm to the country.
“Freedom has to be snatched. No one serves it out on a plate. My movement for real freedom will continue until we free our people from [slavery].”
Imran said he had announced staging a power show in Islamabad to pile pressure on “imported government” and institutions to hold early elections in the country.
“Without a stable government economy can never be stabilised… we came here to put pressure on government and institutions so that they play their role for elections.”
Imran said PML-N chief and former premier Nawaz Sharif was a major hurdle in holding early polls as the former “is taking all decisions sitting in London”.
“The real problem is that convict [Nawaz] sitting in London who is running away from elections… it does not make any difference for Sharif and Zardari if country defaults because their billion are stashed abroad.”
The PTI chief said the country’s economy was sinking fast and inflation was rising. “There is no other way to save the economy except holding elections,” he maintained. “Elections are the need of the hour to save the country from going further downhill.”
Imran also lashed out at a mysterious figure he called “Dirty Harry”, accusing him of him being behind the alleged mistreatment of PTI supporters and journalists. “Threats to journalists and they’re being beaten … and then what happened with Arshad Sharif. We never saw this in Pakistan. There was barbarity and they were threatened.”
“What was their fault? Because they were bringing Imran Khan’s narrative to the media,” he said.
He went on to claim that the individual was also behind the harassment of the PTI’s social media workers and lawmakers Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill.
Earlier, convoys of PTI leaders, workers and supporters made their way to Rawalpindi for the 'climax' of the Haqeeqi Azadi march.
PTI Senator Faisal Javed arrived on stage at the venue and stated that "kaptaan" Imran Khan would announce if the rally would sit at the assigned location or march forward.
"The Haqeeqi Azadi march has entered a decisive phase today," he said.
In a video message, Senator Azam Swati stated that the Haqeeqi Azadi was on the way to reach its destination.
"All characters of the regime change will be humiliated by God and this convoy of Haqeeqi Azadi is not going to stop," he said.
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