DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and no one else, would be held responsible if democracy was derailed and a ‘third power’ stepped in as a result of the ‘Isla­mabad lockdown’ on Nov 2, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday.

Addressing a public meeting at Dera Ismail Khan, he said his party’s protest was aimed at forcing the resignation of “corrupt rulers” in the aftermath of the Panama Papers leaks.

In addition, Imran Khan added, the sit-in was a protest against “poor performance” of institutions. He recalled that the FBR, NAB and the Election Com­mission had told parliament that they cannot investigate the Panamagate scandal.

Mr Khan made it clear that the PTI didn’t want to invite a ‘third power’ and said that one person (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) would be held responsible for the deadlock because he wasn’t presenting himself for accountability. “Protest is our democratic right and the Nawaz-led government will be the ultimate loser if it tries to snatch our right to protest.”

He claimed that the destiny of Pakistan would change on Nov 2 when a “sea of people” would go to Islamabad to shut down the capital. “Anyone who tries to stop the people by force will be swept away by the tsunami,” he said.

Mr Khan said PTI workers would not bow to any despot. “PTI is on one side while on the other side are Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who bartered away his conscience for diesel permits, a corrupt Zardari, Altaf Hussain of the hours-long speeches, and Nawaz Sharif.”

The PTI chief belittled the PML-N leaders’ warning of a crisis if the lockdown went ahead, saying that only the “corrupt gang” would be in trouble that day.

He warned that if Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif tried to use “Gullo Butts” or police to stop the people, he would have to pay the price for it.

Nawaz Sharif had only one factory 30 years ago, but he “multiplied it through corrupt practices and now he owns 30 factories”, Mr Khan alleged. “When we started agitation against Nawaz Sharif, he promised the establishment of three international airports in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, but work has not begun on any of them.”

He said that when the PTI asked Nawaz Sharif to produce evidence following the Panama Papers revelations, he started unveiling plaques and claiming he was putting the country on the road to progress. Instead, he alleged, the prime minister was promoting his business and increasing wealth at the cost of the national exchequer. “The people are paying the cost of his corruption in the shape of unbridled inflation.”

Mr Khan alleged that the Sharifs’ wealth was multiplying with the passage of time while departments like NAB, FBR, FIA and ECP kept mum on his corruption. “In such a situation we have no other option but to take to the streets. Nawaz, as prime minister, is not acceptable because he is a criminal. Our institutions are weak; they lay hands on the small fry but spare the big fish.”

APPEAL TO WORKERS: He asked the disgruntled workers of the Insaf Students Federation to shun their differences and said that workers’ unity was vital to a great cause. He said he would hold meetings with them to address their grievances.

The party’s vice chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, general secretary Jehangir Khan Tareen, Murad Saeed, Ali Amin Gandapur and Naseerullah Wazir also spoke at the gathering.

Earlier, talking to reporters in Islamabad before leaving for Dera Ismail Khan, the PTI chairman dismissed spe­culation that the army or any “non-state actor” was behind his party’s Nov 2 ‘lockdown’, Our Staff Reporter adds.

In fact, he alleged, it was the government which was maligning the army through its propaganda campaign.

“We have not been struggling for 20 years to bring in a ‘third power’. Why is a protest happening? Because Nawaz Sharif isn’t presenting himself for accountability,” he said.

Published in Dawn October 24th, 2016

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