Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) ‘thanksgiving day’ celebrations were held on Sunday at Islamabad's Parade Ground, attended by a jubilant Imran Khan and the party's senior leadership.
The PTI chairman had announced to observe a "thanksgiving day to celebrate Pakistan's victory against corruption" after the Supreme Court (SC) disqualified Nawaz Sharif on Friday.
Speaking to the thousands of supporters gathered at the rally, Khan thanked his party workers, especially the women. "I am glad that women are playing an active role in making a new Pakistan," he said, remembering his late mother and crediting her for teaching him to "stand firm for the truth and justice".
“We knocked on judiciary’s doors instead of taking to the roads because the SC judges asked us to come to the court,” said Khan. “We are thankful to the judiciary because with the judgment, they brought us a new hope.”
Paying tribute to the five judges of the apex court and the joint investigation team (JIT), he said, "I salute the JIT members; I know how much pressure you have handled."
Asking the crowd to imagine a "naya Pakistan," Khan promised that under PTI’s leadership, the National Accountability Bureau would not wait for the government’s orders to take action against criminals. “I will make an autonomous Federal Board of Revenue and empower all institutions.”
Promising to implement merit-based employment on all levels, he said there would be "meritocracy" in naya Pakistan. He also discussed the case against him in the court, saying, “I will resign from the party if a single sentence of my statement before the judiciary is proven false.”
Lashing out at Nawaz Sharif for his alleged money laundering, Khan warned Pakistan Peoples Party’s Asif Ali Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif who is set to be the next prime minister, and Nawaz Sharif's ally Maulana Fazlur Rehman that it was their turn next [for accountability].
“It was hurtful when they [PML-N] levelled allegations against the Shaukat Khanam hospital,” added Khan. “Why didn’t they take action if they had spotted discrepancies in the affairs of the hospital?”
Criticising nepotism within the PML-N, Khan alleged that Shahbaz Sharif had been selected to replace Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister because "the party was being run like a kingdom". He said that Dr Yasmin Rashid would defeat Shahbaz Sharif in the upcoming elections.
'Go Shahbaz go'
PTI leaders, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, and Asad Umar, along with Awami Muslim League's chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, also addressed the huge crowd.
Finally, Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified after the four-year long movement of PTI, said PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen.
"Now, Nawaz Sharif has put forward Shahbaz Sharif for the premiership. The younger brother will also be held accountable for the model town tragedy," said Tareen. "Nawaz Sharif will have to go to jail."
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak in his address congratulated the apex court, the JIT, and the nation.
He said that the credit for the ouster of Nawaz Sharif goes to Imran Khan. "Khan often surprised us with his tremendous achievements," he said, adding that Imran Khan has become a nightmare for corrupt rulers.
"If you want to make a new Pakistan, then you will have to bring the Panama issue to its logical conclusion," he said.
Addressing the people of Punjab, he asked them to gear up to bring Shahbaz down. "The PML-N leaders faced a defeat in the court of law and now they will also face a humiliating defeat in the people's court," he remarked.
While addressing the gathering, Asad Umar said that the struggle which started against four flats ended on four iqamas, adding that it was as easy as making a hotel reservation and booking a plane ticket to get a UAE visa.
He blamed Nawaz Sharif for amassing the burden of loans on the people of Pakistan. "The debt is a national security risk for the country," he said. "During Nawaz Sharif's four years in government, the income of Pakistan has reduced and losses have increased."
Preparations for the celebrations
Three entry points were established at the Parade Ground; one for media, one for VIPs and one for the general public.
Permission to hold the public gathering was sought in writing from the federal capital administration by PTI Islamabad chapter president Raja Khurram Nawaz, after which the administration issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the PTI for holding the rally between 4pm and 10pm.
An official of the police said that over a 1,000 personnel were performing security and traffic duties during the event.
On Friday, following the apex bench's landmark verdict in the Panamagate case, Khan had termed Nawaz Sharif's disqualification as the prime minister "a victory for Pakistan", announcing to hold a Youm-i-Tashakkur (day of thanksgiving) gathering on July 30.
"Pakistan has won today," Khan had said, adding that he had no personal agenda against Nawaz Sharif. "I have known his family for 40 years, he did not take anything of mine — he had done wrong to the people of this country and that was why we wanted him to be held accountable."
This is not the first time PTI is celebrating a 'thanksgiving day'. On November 1, when the SC ordered PML-N and PTI to present their Terms of Reference for the Panama case hearing, the latter announced it will celebrate a thanksgiving day instead of holding a protest that called for a lockdown of the capital. PTI had chosen Parade Ground as its venue for the celebration held on November 2.