PM Imran says 'foreign-funded conspiracy' out to topple his govt, claims to have evidence in writing
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday claimed that the opposition's no-trust move is part of an alleged "foreign-funded conspiracy" hatched against his government over his refusal to have Pakistan's foreign policy be influenced from abroad.
He made these allegations at his party's power show titled Amr Bil Maroof (enjoin the good) and billed as a "historic" event at Parade Ground in Islamabad.
The prime minister took the podium after his fellow PTI leaders took turns addressing their party workers and supporters, who had assembled at his call ahead of a no-trust move against him in the National Assembly.
In what was a marathon speech lasting almost two hours, PM Imran discussed his political ideology, recalled what he said were his government's achievements and criticised his opponents.
As he moved towards the climax of his speech, the prime minister said: "Attempts are being made to influence our foreign policy from abroad. We have been aware of this conspiracy for months. We also know about those who have assembled these people (the opposition parties) but the time has changed. This is not the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
"This is the era of social media. Nothing can be hidden. We will not accept anyone's dictation. We will have friendships with everyone but we will not submit ourselves to anyone.
"Attempts are being made through foreign money to change the government in Pakistan. Our people are being used. Mostly inadvertently, but some people are using money against us. We know from what places attempts are being to pressure us. We have been threatened in writing but we will not compromise on national interest."
He claimed to be in possession of evidence — a letter — that he said would prove his point. "I am placing the case of Pakistan's independence before you. The letter I have is proof and I want to dare anyone who is doubting this letter. I will invite them off the record. We have to decide for how long we will have to live like this. We are getting threats. There are many things about foreign conspiracy which will be shared very soon."
"The nation wants to know who the man sitting in London is meeting with and whose directions the characters based in Pakistan are following? I am revealing the proofs we have. I cannot talk more in detail because I have to protect the interest of my country. I cannot talk about anything that harms my country. I could have told you about it. I do not fear anyone but I care about Pakistan's interest."
At the onset of his speech, he thanked his supporters for gathering in the capital at his call. "First of all, I thank my nation. The way you turned up on my call from all corners of Pakistan, I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart. I also pay tribute to my team of parliamentarians as 'you were offered money and attempts were made to bribe you but you made me happy and I am proud of you.'
"I want to speak my heart out and I want you to listen to me quietly. I invited you for Amr Bil Maroof to emphasise that our Pakistan was built on the ideology of Islamic welfare state. We had to build the country on the basis of Riyasat e Madina.
"Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said [in his speech earlier that] there is an external interference in Pakistan ... I will speak about it later. [First], you must understand that we cannot become a nation until we stand by our actual ideology.
"I want to clarify that I also did not know the ideology of Pakistan for quite some time. I left for abroad at the age of 18. As I began to understand the religion, I noticed that the orders of Allah to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) were implemented more in the West.
"In Britain, free medical treatment, free education, unemployment benefits, and free legal aid is given to the people. Our Prophet had created Riysat-e-Madina where the state had taken responsibility of its people."
The prime minister recalled what he said were his government's measures to alleviate the burden on the public.
"We are providing loans to families for housing, technical education and small businesses. As soon as our tax was enhanced, I announced a subsidy and reduced rates of petrol and 'Fazlur Rehman'," he said. "I also offered a subsidy in power tariff. I promise I will spend more money on my people as our government collects more capital in taxes."
The prime minister linked his crusade against corruption with the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
"Our Prophet had also emphasised for the supremacy of law. I don't give them NRO because my Prophet had explained that nations get destroyed when you punish the poor and exempt the rich.
"Poor countries are backward because the law there fails to catch the rich who are involved in white collar crimes. They transfer stolen and looted money to offshore accounts. Small thieves do not destroy a country like the way big thieves do."
"These 'three stooges' are looting the country for years and all this drama is being done to have Imran Khan surrender like Musharraf. They are trying to blackmail the government. General Musharraf tried to save his government and gave these thieves NRO and it resulted in the destruction of Pakistan."
"Come what may, I will not forgive them even if my government goes or even if I lose my life," he added.
PM Imran explained the reason why today's gathering was named Amr Bil Maroof. "The meaning of Amr Bil Maroof is that a nation is bound to wage jihad against the evil and support the good. In Britain, two million people took to the streets during Iraq war. That was Amr Bil Maroof and this is what alive nations look like.
"I called you here because attempts are being made to bribe people. They decided to dislodge our government by claiming that Pakistan is being destroyed. I challenge that no government gave a performance like we did in our three and a half years."
The premier listed a series of policy decisions taken by his government which he said benefited the country greatly and would continue to do so in future.
"Covid erupted that led to closure of the world but I I did not shut my country and faced criticism. I can proudly say that Pakistan's steps were acknowledged by the world as they helped save the economy," he said.
"World Bank recently released a report, which said Pakistan is the country where poverty is minimal. Later, our growth rate was more than 6 per cent. It stunned the opposition and the world.
"Our exports reached a historic high. We collected unprecedented tax. We gave incentives to overseas Pakistanis and received record remittances. We formed an ease-of-business model for the construction sector that led to the growth of 30 other allied industries.
"We saw record crops. It happened because we facilitated our farmers. We protected them. Now Pakistan's industries are growing rapidly. Textile industries are struggling to find labour because all industries are working at their full capacity. This is the first time government is supporting its industries."
He urged TV anchors to invite economic experts on their shows and conduct a comparison of his government's performance with the previous ones.
Earlier. the premier had arrived at the venue in a helicopter as footage shared on the PTI's Twitter account showed a large crowd in attendance, with buses and cars lined up outside.
Have advised PM to call fresh elections: Asad Umar
Planning Minister Asad Umar, during his speech, said that the prime minister was "waging a war" against opposition leaders who were indulging in politics in Pakistan through their "ill-gotten money".
"This no-confidence motion is a petty thing. I want to tell the prime minister that he is the leader of the entire Muslim world and he will win this battle."
He said that he has advised the premier to call [fresh] elections to let the opposition know with whom people stand.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed that the joint opposition had made Imran Khan an offer. "They said 'Khan, give us NRO, and we will retract the no-confidence movement.'"
He said that the party supporters, by showing up today, had showed that they — Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman — won't get an NRO.
Qureshi said that, as the foreign minister, he knows a lot of "secrets" which he has communicated to the prime minister. "I have done my job, it is now up to you."
He said that for the second time, the people of Pakistan have expressed their support for Imran Khan. "Today, once again, the nation has come with a message. They want purana Khan and Naya Pakistan."
'Our brave leader' going nowhere, says Parvez Khattak
Earlier, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak was one of the first PTI leaders to address the crowd. He urged the PTI supporters to stand with Imran Khan, assuring them that "our brave leader is not going anywhere."
"You will see ... the opposition will cry after four days," he said, adding that the National Assembly members who "abandoned" PTI never originally belonged to the party. "You will see... they will regret it."
The minister asked crowd to support the prime minister in the next elections as well. "I hope that you will stand with Imran Khan till the day he breathes his last."
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi explained to the crowd the reasons behind the opposition's no-confidence motion.
"Why did these people bring the motion? I will tell you today," he said. "Because, during Imran Khan's tenure, Pakistan broke all records of tax collection ... because Imran Khan is finally getting us out of FATF ... because Imran Khan made Kashmir a national issue... because Imran Khan, who is an honorable man, said 'absolutely not'."
Ahead of the gathering, PTI supporters began descending in the capital as the party prepared to make its Amr Bil Maroof (enjoin the good) public meeting a bigger success than tit-for-tat rallies being led by opposition parties.
'Rally's message not just for opposition but also for foreign powers'
When Murad Saeed, federal minister for communications and postal services, took the stage, he made PTI supporters make a promise.
"Pakistanis, let's take an oath today," he said, urging the crowd to repeat after him. "We promise that we will never compromise on the nation's honour, respect and integrity. And we will fight all the internal and external threats [to Pakistan] with Prime Minister Imran Khan."
Saeed said that the rally's participants, by attending the rally, have not just given a message to the opposition but also to the foreign powers that they're standing with Imran Khan.
Mirza confirms GDA alliance with government
In her speech at the rally, Federal Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Fahmida Mirza confirmed that her party, the Grand Democratic Alliance, stands with the PTI government.
"GDA is the party that always stands for its values," she said. "It stood with the government back then... and it will do so today."
She stressed that if the defection of the National Assembly members is not stopped today, it will derail the system in the upcoming years.
"I am standing on the values that the Parliament should be strengthened and this 'lotacracy' should end," Mirza said.
PM, ministers make pre-power show appeal to public
In an audio message released on Twitter early today, PM Imran said that today's rally was not just PTI's war but belonged to the entire nation. "This is a battle for the future of Pakistan."
The premier urged supporters to reach the venue early as there were fears of blockades. "I'm scared you may not be able to reach on time because of this.
"God willing, we will make history in Pakistan today," he added.
Meanwhile, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said that a "brave nation needed a brave leader", adding that PM Imran would never let the nation bow down. In a video message, he urged citizens to attend the "historic rally".
Islamabad police also provided directions for participants making their way to the venue. The Islamabad deputy commissioner added that all roads were open in Islamabad while entry and exit points were clear.
"Only Srinagar Highway is closed at H-9 area but alternate routes are open," he said.
PTI supporters make their way to Islamabad
Social media was abuzz in anticipation of the prime minister's rally, with supporters sharing images and videos of them making their way to Islamabad.
A PTI Sindh caravan, led by Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh, had reached Islamabad on Saturday. The caravan had started its journey from Karachi on Friday.
Additionally, the party said that a train — carrying supporters from Karachi — had reached Lahore on Sunday morning.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, too, led a "large rally" from Lahore, which is on its way to the capital.
"Other PTI caravans are on their way from across the country to participate in the historic public meeting," PTI Senator Faisal Javed said.
PTI added that caravans — being led by federal ministers and local PTI leaders — from Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan had also left for the rally.
Fawad asks party workers to facilitate media
The information minister said that Pakistan's media fraternity and more than 43 representatives from international media organisaitions had gathered at Parade Ground to cover the rally.
He directed PTI workers to facilitate media workers, saying: "The world will see this historic rally through the eye of the media."
On Saturday, a PTI spokesperson announced that the media professionals would not be allowed to use professional cameras to record the event as “cameras pose security risk”.
This led to organisers and media crew exchanging arguments after the latter were told that cameras belonging to private TV channels would not be allowed due to the “security protocol” of the prime minister but they would be allowed to use their mobile phones for footage and photos.
Sheikh Rashid warns JUI-F against creating unrest
Separately, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid warned the JUI-F against creating unrest in the capital. He also told the opposition that PM Imran would "play until the last ball and the last over".
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, the minister said that the PML-N had been given permission for staging a rally on March 28 (tomorrow), predicting that voting on the no-trust move would be conducted by April 4.
Rashid also informed the nation that the interior ministry's command and control centre was operational round the clock, adding that he was personally monitoring it. He stated that any incident could be reported on 0519206660 and 0519218594.
"All of Islamabad is open. Don't go off of rumours."
He also revealed that the prime minister wished to address the rally around 5pm, despite the large number of people that were still en route to the capital. "Even though the political committee said to delay [the speech], he wants to do it earlier during the day time," he said, urging citizens to make haste in reaching Parade Ground.
In case there are obstacles, we have approximately 15,000 security personnel to maintain law and order, he said.
Addressing the JUI-F protesters, the minister said that the Islamabad High Court chief justice had issued directives for keeping Srinagar Highway open. "If you come and resort to violence, then the law will be enforced according to the chief justice's orders whatever the result may be."
He said that the party had a right to stage a rally, but warned that the capital administration would take action against them if they resorted to violence.
"I want to say this to JUI-F specifically: Srinagar Highway should be kept open. Stay within your area. The time allotted to you is up. The PML-N has asked for this place on March 28 [...]. If your aim is to spread chaos or stop the people travelling for Imran Khan's rally, that won't happen. We are sitting right here."
The minister also predicted that the opposition would be left empty-handed. "Whatever the result, I have inside information, you will get nothing and Imran Khan will prevail."
Workers and leaders of the JUI-F, under the banner of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), had already come to take the stage on the Srinagar Highway while PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, along with Punjab opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz was leading her party caravan via GT Road to the capital, calling it the last nail in the coffin of the PTI government.
The PML-N said the PDM’s long march could stay in the capital for two or more days depending on the political situation despite the interior minister’s warning that the opposition would not be permitted to extend its stay.
The Islamabad High Court on Saturday warned the JUI-F against violating conditions of the no-objection certificate for holding a public gathering under the PDM banner and directed the capital administration to act against violators in accordance with the law.
The organisers of the JUI-F public gathering assured the capital administration that they would follow the terms and conditions of the NOC in letter and spirit.