Bracing to battle an onslaught of cases, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday said the party leadership would soon start ‘courting arrests’ in response to the government’s roughshod tactics to muzzle the opposition, announcing the ‘Jail Bharo’ (fill the jails) movement.
Asking his supporters to prepare and wait for his call to launch the movement for voluntary arrests, the former prime minister said the move would convey a strong message to the ruling alliance, making it clear on which side the nation stood.
Vehemently protesting the targeting of his party leaders – who have been in the crosshairs of law-enforcement agencies over various charges – Imran asserted the PTI would not remain silent as the government unleashes atrocities on his party’s members.
“It was their [coalition government’s] plan to weaken the PTI by terrorising our leaders and workers. We never committed such atrocities in our tenure,” he said and alleged the government was using such tactics to delay the general elections.
The PTI chairman, while addressing the public through a video link, asked the party leaders and workers to begin preparing for the movement, adding he has never seen an interim set-up in the country’s political history so busy in targeting the opponents.
It may be mentioned here that the PTI chief had announced a similar movement in October last year to force the coalition government to announce date for snap polls. However, the plan never materialised.
During the address, Imran also pointed out that PTI’s senior vice president Fawad Chaudhry was ruthlessly arrested from his home at 3am and asked what crime had Shandana Gulzar committed that made him a terrorist.
“Moreover, as the court gives bail to Sheikh Rashid, more cases were being filed against him. They break doors, enter homes and arrest people, which perturbs the children,” he lamented and bemoaned that whoever spoke against the “regime change operation” meets the same fate.
“They are lodging cases against my party members, arresting them and subjecting them to custodial torture while violating our basic human right.”
On the caretaker governments, the PTI chief lashed out at its composition, claiming that in both Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the interim governments were not neutral. "Anti-PTI people were brought into the caretaker governments."
He further said that it was constitutionally binding (on the Election Commission of Pakistan) to hold elections in 90 days after dissolution of the provincial assemblies.
“However, through harassment, intimidation and arrests of our leaders the rulers were trying weakening us to the point where they can delay elections; they were scared to contest polls against us,” he added.
While addressing the judiciary, he said that today, the entire Pakistan was looking towards them; “the nation was expecting that the judiciary will stand by the Constitution”, adding that if the elections go beyond 90 days, it would mean there was no democracy or rule of law in this country”. “After the 90 days whoever stays in the government, article 6 would apply on them”.
The former premier went on to accuse the coalition government of using the recent wave of terrorism to gain “political mileage” for their benefit, claiming that militancy was at its lowest-ever point during his government but resurfaced with a vengeance during the current regime.
“Look at the graph of terrorism and how it came down during the PTI government,” he said. “Why wasn’t there any terrorism when the PTI was in the federal government?”
Imran blamed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the rising terrorism and recalled the sacrifices made by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the war on terror.
“This is why they (K-P public) came out yesterday and thronged the streets in fear that there might be another operation,” he said.
The PTI chief added that “lies” were spewed by PM Shehbaz in the cabinet meeting over the weekend regarding KP not utilising the terrorism funding properly.
“K-P spent Rs600 billion in nine years. We made four police training schools, an elite training school in Nowshera, a special combat force to fight terrorism,” Imran said. “This is why terrorism subsided. A DNA lab was also made in 2017 at Khyber Medical College.”
Commenting on the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, he said only two provinces, Punjab and K-P, followed through on the commitment and gave money for the uplift of tribal districts.
Imran said Sindh and Balochistan did not provide any money. “We invested Rs55 billion for the tribal districts. The PDM government only gave Rs5 billion.”
He castigated the coalition government for having no plan to address the tall challenges the country facing, adding that unless the nation wakes up now, everyone would be responsible for its fate.
He also rebuffed the coalition government’s claim that K-P had not properly utilised funds allocated by the federal government to prepare against terrorism and the funds given to K-P during the PTI’s tenure was sourced from the other provinces.
“Only two provinces gave the funds, Punjab and K-P, while they received no funds from Balochistan and Sindh. The money was prudently spent on the KP’s security; not only had PTI’s government raised the morale of the police in K-P but also formed a forensic laboratory in 2017,” he added.
Slamming the coalition government for not being able to control the exchange rate, Imran said that when the no-confidence motion came to the National Assembly through a conspiracy, the dollar was for Rs178, which had climbed by Rs100 in nine months.
“The devaluation comes with sever repercussions for the common man. It has unleashed unprecedented inflation in the country. The cost of living has skyrocketed and the people with low income were facing difficulty in coping with high food and energy prices,” he added.
He lashed out Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for making the mess of Pakistan’s economy. “First he threatened the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and now he had bowed down before the international lender and hoping for a bailout from charity organisations.”
“Those who came to power through conspiracy have ruined the country. The imported government has no roadmap for the country's progress,” he added.
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