• Says nation won’t forgive opposition or their ‘handlers’
• Accuses Sharifs, Zardari et al of links with foreign forces
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his belligerent address to the nation on Thursday, vowed to foil “an international conspiracy” hatched against his government by opposition leaders and their alleged handlers but, in an apparent slip of the tongue, revealed the name of the United States as the country behind a “threat letter”.
The prime minister during his nearly an hour-long live address to the nation hours after presiding over the National Security Committee meeting, declared that he would not resign and face the no-confidence motion of the opposition in the National Assembly, which will be voting on it on Sunday.
“Sunday will be a defining day in the country’s political history,” said Mr Khan, asking the nation to identify those “traitors” who would be voting against him.
On that day, he said, the people’s representatives would decide to which side they would go — “independent foreign policy or slavery of the superpowers”.
The premier warned the dissidents from his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party against casting their votes in favour of the opposition’s no-confidence resolution because the nation would “neither forgive nor forget you and the people behind you for becoming a part of the international conspiracy”.
He used the term “handlers” for those behind the opposition’s move to end his government through the vote of no confidence.
Mr Khan claimed that he was being deprived of the power because of his Russian visit, which he claimed he had undertaken after consulting all stakeholders, including the military and the Foreign Office.
He even reiterated his earlier threat that after leaving office he would not sit silently and would become even stronger.
Earlier, the prime minister was scheduled to address the nation on Wednesday, but the plan was shelved after his meeting with Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Staying firm on his decision of not giving resignation despite virtually losing the majority in the National Assembly, the prime minister said that he would “fight till the last ball”.
As he started delivering the speech, the prime minister told the nation, in an unusual way, that he was speaking to them live and that his address had not been a recorded one, “as the country is passing through a defining moment and I want to share my inner feelings with you”.
In most part of his speech, the prime minister tried to build his case that he did not take US dictation, whereas opposition leaders were “stooges” of the United States.
The initial part of his speech was full of usual rhetoric, in which Mr Khan talked about his political struggle after a successful career as a cricketer and his ambition to introduce a Madina state model in Pakistan, and claimed that he had been victimised for pursuing an independent foreign policy.
“On March 8 or before it on March 7, America ... not America ... but from abroad, we received a message from a country,” he said, and apparently immediately regretted naming the United States as the country behind the alleged letter.
However, he went on to say: “For a free country, a message like this is [not only] against its prime minister but is also against the country [itself].” He was referring to a “threat letter” that he waved in front of thousands of PTI supporters during a March 27 jalsa in Islamabad, terming it evidence of an “international conspiracy” against his government.
He said it was a “big mistake” to become an ally of the US in the ‘war on terror’, as Pakistan was the country which had suffered more than any other country in the world.
“Since I joined politics, I have always said that neither I will bow down before anyone and nor will I let my nation bow down,” he said. “It means I will not let my nation be a slave to anyone. I have never backed down from this stance. When I came to the power, I decided that our foreign policy will be independent, which means it will be for Pakistanis. It doesn’t mean that we wanted enmity. When I got the government, I said that we will not have any foreign policy that is not in our favour.”
He said the letter clearly indicated that the country behind the letter knew beforehand that a no-trust move was coming.
“The no-trust motion had not even been submitted [at the time]. It means that [the opposition] was connected with these people abroad, they say they are angry with Pakistan ... they make this excuse. They say they will forgive Pakistan if Imran Khan loses in the no-trust move, but if the move fails, Pakistan will have to go through a difficult time,” he added.
“Is this our status? We are a nation of 220 million and another country is issuing threats without giving a reason. They said that Imran Khan decided to go to Russia on his own even though the Foreign Office and the military leadership were consulted.”
“Our ambassador told them that the decision [to visit Russia was made after consultations] but they are denying it and saying that ‘it was only because of Imran Khan and that our ties cannot be good if he stays’. What they are actually saying is that they have no issue with the people who will replace Imran Khan,” he added.
He said foreign forces have developed links with opposition leaders — Shehbaz Sharif, Fazlur Rehman and Asif Ali Zardari — as they know where opposition leaders’ money and properties were.
“During their (opposition leaders) regimes in 10 years, 400 drone attacks were conducted and they did not condemn it once,” he added.
The prime minister said he had said “absolutely not” to the United States in response to its reported demands of having military bases in Pakistan, whereas no opposition leader has such courage to say it bluntly to a superpower.
‘PM a security threat’
Meanwhile, commenting on the prime minister’s address, the opposition parties declared Imran Khan a “security threat” for the country.
In a statement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif said that Imran Khan had brought Pakistan into the crosshairs in a desperate attempt to hang on to power.
He stressed that in his desperation and frustration, Mr Khan was damaging diplomatic relations of Pakistan, which was why it was imperative that he should be banned from delivering these catastrophic speeches.
“Not showing the letter means there is no letter. Imran Niazi is once again telling a new lie as he usually does,” Mr Sharif said. “After Imran’s false narrative of corruption, lies about building a mirror image of Riyasat-i-Madina, this conspiracy letter was the latest false narrative to save his sinking ship.”
Speaking at a news conference, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif blasted Imran Khan for naming the United States in his speech.
“There is no doubt that the US can create problems for us,” he said, adding that the country could cause a financial crisis for Pakistan and could even make it difficult for it to buy oil. He said Imran Khan had become “dangerous” for the country’s existence and economy.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told a TV channel that he did not watch “the former prime minister’s speech.” He alleged that Imran had made the country a slave of the International Monetary Fund, harmed the Kashmir policy and sabotaged the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2022