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ISLAMABAD: Saying that his party is fully prepared for coming elections, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan claimed on Saturday that the nation would again see PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Zardari together.

“I am telling you, (Asif) Zardari and (Nawaz) Sharif will be together in the elections,” the PTI chief said while speaking at a party workers’ convention marking the formal launch of his election campaign from Islamabad’s National Assembly constituency NA-53.

Read more: PPP, PTI could forge Senate-like arrangement if needed: Zardari

“We were never prepared (for elections) the way we are this time,” Mr Khan said and told PTI workers that first rule of the competition was to never underestimate one’s opponents.

“Be ready for the decisive fight against plunderers,” he said, announcing that the PTI would conclude its election campaign with a “mammoth” public meeting at Islamabad’s Parade Ground on July 23.

Mr Khan, whose party is yet to announce its election manifesto, highlighted some of the major steps the PTI would take on a priority basis after assuming power, including some important legislation.

Imran asks his party’s workers to get ready for ‘decisive fight against plunderers’

In his nearly 30-minute speech, he pledged that after coming to power, his party’s government would “improve governance, eliminate corruption and strengthen institutions” of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Federal Investigation Agency and police. He vowed that he would collect Rs8 trillion from the country simply by improving the working of the FBR and curtailing government expenditures.

The PTI chief said his party planned to introduce a whistle-blowers act in an effort to curb corruption. For example, he said, if the government managed to recover Rs10 million looted money, the whistle-blower would get Rs2.5m as reward. He also declared that they would introduce a conflict of interest bill like they had done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to prevent the persons having vested interests from coming to power.

Mr Khan said that his party would soon after assuming power launch a campaign to grow trees all over the country to resolve the issue of climate change.

He said the Sharif family had been caught “red-handed” in the Panama Papers case, but the “father-daughter duo is misleading the nation with their mantra of Mujhe Kyun Nikala”.

“On the other hand, there are Zardaris who have ruthlessly plundered nation’s wealth,” he said, urging the workers “to vote sensibly.” He asked them to vote for those people who lived among them through thick and thin.

Mr Khan lashed out at the previous governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), alleging that the two parties had failed to construct even a single state-of-the-art hospital in Pakistan and that was mainly because the members of the Sharif and Zardari families preferred visiting hospitals in London and Dubai, and they were least concerned about common citizens of Pakistan.

He said that the national economy was on the verge of collapse and Pakistan’s current debt had surged to a staggering Rs27tr due to the governments of the PML-N and PPP, which was only Rs6tr about 10 years ago.

Speaking of distribution of party tickets among election candidates, the PTI chief said that he had to face immense difficulties in the process of awarding tickets to candidates. “There were several capable candidates in many constituencies, but the ticket was to be given to one person,” he explained, elaborating his three-week ordeal while finalising the candidates.

He also mentioned his wife, saying “Bushra Begum has been with me for four months, and she said that she had seen me getting old in just three weeks”.

Mr Khan lauded women members of his party for their services during the sit-in and said that awarding tickets to women who could take part in legislation was necessary. He declared that in future no woman would be awarded ticket for a reserved seat unless she made her way up through the party ranks by contesting intra-party elections.

The PTI chairman, who has been facing severe criticism over award of party tickets to newcomers while ignoring the party’s loyal workers, advised the latter to wait till the formation of the PTI government. He was of the view that when a party came to power, its ideological workers could get more “opportunities” to serve the country and they could easily be “adjusted.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2018