Opposition parties organised 'circus on containers' to avoid accountability: PM Imran

Updated November 18, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan  addressing the inauguration ceremony of Havelian-Thakot section of the motorway on Monday, November 18, 2019. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the inauguration ceremony of Havelian-Thakot section of the motorway on Monday, November 18, 2019. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday criticised opposition parties for what he termed "a circus on containers" aimed at evading accountability.

His comments were in reference to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl's (JUI-F) recent 'Azadi March' in Islamabad, which had been joined in its early stages by key opposition leaders and their parties.

The prime minister had been addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Havelian-Mansehra section of the Hazara motorway. After dispensing with niceties and speaking about the potential benefits of the project, he turned his attention to the JUI-F's dharna.

"If there ever was an expert on dharnas, he is standing right here," he said in self reference, before mocking the opposition for giving up their protest too soon.

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"I had said earlier that I would have agreed to all their demands if they could last a month on those containers. We [the PTI] did 126 days," he recalled. He also criticised the JUI-F leadership for 'hiding' in the comfort of their 'warm rooms' while ordinary workers languished in the cold and rain.

He also regretted the fashion in which seminary students were "brought" to the protest. Noting that the participants had seemed unaware of any common purpose of the sit-in, he alleged that Maulana Fazlur Rehman had "used" them for personal gains. He also criticised the JUI-F chief for "using religion" to make money, saying he "issues whatever fatwas you want him to if the price is right".

"[Using religion for personal benefit] is the biggest sin," he declared. "I pray that the Maulana is spared the judgement that is waiting for him in the hereafter."

Speaking more broadly, he said opposition parties had come to Islamabad to "blackmail" the government to shut pending corruption cases against their leaders.

The prime minister, however, reiterated that would not spare "a single corrupt person" in the country. "I will betray my nation if I do so," he added.

"I do not care about votes, but I do fear God and the hereafter," he said, adding that the country had been facing financial difficulties because of said 'corrupt politicians'.

"My message [to all my opponents] is that my God has trained me for challenges. I know how to win and how to face defeat. And I know how to stand back up after I have been defeated," he said.

"It is my promise to God that I will not spare a single person who has plundered the nation's money."

'Indemnity bond an inconsequential amount for Sharifs'

Talking about the government's decision to secure indemnity bonds before granting permission to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad, PM Imran maintained that the amount had been inconsequential for the Sharif family and the bond should have been signed.

"We were requested to send him abroad on humanitarian grounds," he said, adding that the government had shown mercy even though half the cabinet had been against the decision.

"What did we ask in return? We asked for a Rs7 billion guarantee. The amount is peanuts for them. The way they have looted the country, they can easily tip someone Rs7bn," he said.

He said that though the government had "merely asked for a piece of paper with the guarantee on it", the PML-N started creating "drama" on this demand.

Noting that Shehbaz Shairf had said he would guarantee Nawaz's return, PM Imran asked the younger Sharif: " Your son and son-in-laws are fugitives, who will provide a guarantee for them? Both of Nawaz Sharif’s sons and Ishaq Dar are absconding; who will provide a guarantee for them. On top of all that, there are corruption cases pending against you as well: who will give your guarantee?"

Stating that the government had conceded to the verdict of the Lahore High Court, he warned Shehbaz that "the nation has understood your dramas".

Recalling that Shehbaz had said Imran Khan should be responsible if something happened to Nawaz Shairf, the premier asked: "In the past 10 years, more than 800 people have died in jails, who is responsible for their deaths?"

"Has anyone ever bothered to visit their bereaved and ask how they are surviving?"

Referring to this perceived disparity in how the powerful and the powerless are treated in Pakistan's justice system, the prime minister pleaded that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and his successor, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, take whatever measures necessary to restore the confidence of the nation in the judiciary.

"If you need funds, we will provide them [...] please restore this nation's trust in our judicial system," he said. "We will support you in whatever way we can."