PESHAWAR: PTI supporters raise slogans in favour of Imran Khan at the rally on Wednesday.—Shahbaz Butt / White Star
PESHAWAR: PTI supporters raise slogans in favour of Imran Khan at the rally on Wednesday.—Shahbaz Butt / White Star

PESHAWAR: Kicking off his anti-government roadshow from the centre of his party’s political power, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, former prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday night announced his plan to continue protesting against the newly-installed government until fresh elections are held.

“I will address a rally in Karachi on Saturday and all my workers should come out on the roads in each city of the country,” he said while addressing a massive rally on Peshawar Ring Road.

In his first public appearance since he was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief addressed PM Shehbaz Sharif and told him to stop the harassment of PTI supporters.

“This crackdown that you’re doing against our youth over social media ... listen to this clearly ... the day we give the call, you would not find a place to hide.”

Why did you open court at midnight, ex-PM asks judges

Mr Khan then addressed the judiciary and questioned why the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court felt the need to open their doors on Saturday night, hours before he was ousted.

“My dear judges, my judiciary, I have spent time behind bars in the struggle to secure your freedom. I ask the judiciary [why] you opened the court in the dead of night... this nation has known me for 45 years. Have I ever broken the law? When I played cricket, did anyone every accuse me of match fixing?”

Mr Khan claimed that during his political career, he had never “provoked the public against state institutions or the judiciary” because he is bound to Pakistan, in life and in death. “I ask you, what crime had I committed that you opened up the courts at midnight,” he asked.

‘Imported govt’

In his speech, Mr Khan said that the “decisive moment” had arrived and the nation needs to choose if it wants slavery or liberty. “Do we want to be the slaves of the US or do we want real freedom?”

He claimed he had begun the fight for the “real independence” of the nation and said that “we will not accept the imported government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif”.

“Shehbaz Sharif is out on bail, his son is out on bail, Nawaz Sharif is a convict, and his son is an absconder in London and the same is the case with his sons, daughter and son-in-law,” he said.

He also came down hard on the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for his alleged corrupt practices saying “the junior Sharif is involved in Rs 40 billion corruption cases.”

Imran Khan said that he was ousted because replied “absolutely not” to America’s demand to provide airspace for their operations. He said the US didn’t like him because he believed in an independent foreign policy.

“I will not engage my nation in the wars of others,” he said, adding that while on one hand they were fighting for America in the war on terror, on the other hand, Washington continued to humiliate the Pakistani government and the nation.

“Now you people have become a brave nation and no country can dare enslave you,” he said.

Mr Khan claimed that Pakistan was standing on the right side of the history.

Imran Khan reiterated that today’s Pakistan was different from the Pakistan of 1971 when former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was punished by America for his struggle towards an independent foreign policy.

“Today’s Pakistan has changed and its masses are aware and conscious; living in the era of social media,” he said.

Large numbers

The charged crowd, consisting mostly of youths, raised slogans against the US, the leadership of the new ruling coalition and the Pakistan Democratic Movement, as well as dissident members of the PTI. The PTI workers also raised slogans against PTI’s dissident MNAs.

A large number of women also attended the rally some of whom had also brought their children to the rally.

The organisers time and again kept making announcements from the stage to take care of the women in the audience and not to disturb them because “they have come out for the independence of the Pakistani nation”.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan, former cabinet ministers Pervez Khattak and Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the rally along with other senior leaders of the PTI.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2022

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