The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ended its marathon sit-in in Islamabad on Wednesday with the party chairman, Imran Khan, stressing the need for unity in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre and urging the government to ‘reciprocate’.
“Pakistan cannot afford [our] opposition in these testing times… we have to end our sit-in,” Imran said in his last address after offering funeral prayers in absentia for the victims of the dastardly terrorist attack at the Army Public School and College.
“We have taken this decision for the sake of our country and want to see you [Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif] take the next step for the sake of democracy,” the PTI chief said. “We expect you will set up a judicial commission,” he added in a comment directed towards the prime minister. “I ask you [Nawaz Sharif], will you do what the nation wants [probe rigging allegations]?”
Addressing his supporters, Imran said the ongoing political crisis in the country would end if the prime minister announced a judicial commission to probe the alleged rigging in last year’s general elections and punish those found guilty.
He said his party would accept Nawaz as prime minister if he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the 2013 polls. But if the premier is found guilty of rigging, there would be no agreeable option other than re-election, the PTI chief added.
Citing the factors that led to his decision to call off the Islamabad sit-in, Imran said, “The briefing by the Peshawar corps commander revealed that external forces were behind this attack and that there were future threats too.
“This led us to reconsider whether we should continue our protests under the given circumstances.”
This, however, doesn’t mean the PTI has given up its demands, Imran said. “It is my request that a judicial commission be set up as early as possible… We will come out on the streets again if justice is not served,” he added.
Regarding his decision to attend the meeting of the parliamentary leaders convened by the prime minister in the wake of the Peshawar tragedy held earlier in the day, Imran said he almost chose not to take part in it.
“I was really angry about what the government did to us over the last four months… they used excessive force against us in Jhelum, Gujranwala and Islamabad… they teargased us even though peaceful protest is our right,” he said. “I decided not to participate, keeping in view all of this.”
“But then I asked myself ‘What is better for the country? What is need of the hour?’… The country should be united and the entire nation should be on the same page to fight terrorism,” the PTI chairman added.
He said the PTI not only participated in the meeting but fully backed Nawaz Sharif’s government in the fight against terrorism. The PTI would also play its role in the committee announced by the premier to formulate a strategy in this regard, he added.
Recounting the scenes he witnessed in Peshawar, Imran said he had never before seen an atrocity which involved the planned murder of children. “How can one kill children? The human mind simply cannot understand this.”
Before calling off the sit-in, the PTI chief put the party’s movement in perspective for its supporters. “We woke up the nation over the last four months. Our movement has been spreading and we held the biggest rallies in the country’s history, simply because the nation realises the elections were rigged,” he said.
Bidding farewell to the participants of the sit-in, Imran said “I congratulate all my fellow protesters, particularly women and the youth.”
Imran’s move welcomed
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif welcomed the PTI chief’s decision to call off the Islamabad sit-in, saying, “This step of Imran Khan will strengthen the war against terrorism.” He added that PTI’s reservations regarding last year’s elections would be addressed.
Former president and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also welcomed the announcement, terming it “a step in the right direction at a time when all attention must be focused on fighting the existential threat confronting the nation.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2014.