PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday asked his supporters at a political power show in Karachi if his now dissolved government was up against a foreign "conspiracy" or mere "interference" in what was an indirect reference to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar's recent remarks that had jolted the former prime minister's political narrative.
The DG ISPR on Thursday said that the word "conspiracy" was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee last month, instead saying that the demarche was issued for the use of "undiplomatic language" which he said "is equal to interference".
Khan, while addressing a much-anticipated rally at Karachi's Bagh-i-Jinnah on Saturday, touched upon Maj Gen Iftikhar's differentiation between the two terminologies and asked his audience what they thought of it but did not critique the military man's assessment.
"Karachi, I thank you from my heart," Khan said in his opening remarks in the port city. "I've come to talk some very special things because the problem is of your and your children's future. This conspiracy against our country ... I want you to carefully listen ... was it a conspiracy or an interference? Raise your hands and tell me if it was an interference or a conspiracy.
"There was a conspiracy against this country at a very vast international scale," he said as he explained his political philosophy while dealing with foreign affairs.
"I want to tell the nation that I've never been against any country. I'm not anti-India, anti-Europe or anti-US. I'm with the humanity of the world. I'm not against any nation. I want friendship with everyone but slavery with no one."
Khan claimed that he came to know three to four months back that the turncoats who eventually left his party as well as some journalists had started having meetings at the US embassy. "A journalist told me that 'a lot of money is being spent on us'. Thus, the conspiracy had been in the works for a while and then our US ambassador meets Donald Lu."
He repeated his grievance against the judiciary, asking what crime had he committed that they felt the need to open courts last Saturday at midnight.
"I, till today, have never broken Pakistan's law. I created two of Pakistan's biggest charity institutions. I created Shaukat Khanum and two universities. I am the only politician to have been declared sadiq and ameen by Pakistan's Supreme Court. I knew that the match was fixed but what pained me is that the courts opened up at midnight. It will remain with me for the rest of my life."
Khan asked why the judiciary did not take suo motu notice and get the cable investigated when the then deputy speaker gave his ruling on a foreign conspiracy and why it remained silent "when an open market was set up and politicians were being sold".
The PTI chairman said he stood by his decision to say "absolutely not" to the US when asked for military bases. "A country's prime minister is like the father. The 220m people were my responsibility, and to take them into someone else's war was my responsibility. I will never sacrifice my people for another country."
Khan slammed Shehbaz Sharif, his successor in the top office. "There are 40bn rupee corruption cases on Shehbaz in NAB and the FIA. What more insult of our country can it be that a person out on bail is the prime minister," he said.
"His son, also out on bail, is the chief minister. Think carefully what is happening with our country. They make thieves our leaders because they can be easily used. They get ready to do everything to protect their money."
The PTI chairman identified Shehbaz's elder sibling Nawaz Sharif as the "mastermind of this conspiracy". "The one who is sitting in London, who ran away from the law after lying is now preparing to return. The entire Pakistan's justice system is on trial. Can it stand against these powerful thieves or not? I ask the courts and NAB ... what will you do?"
Khan told his followers that God has given them two paths to choose from. "There is no other third path. You cannot be neutral. It is God's order."
He demanded that a judicial commission be made under the chief justice of Pakistan's supervision to decide on the merits of his claims regarding the cable and foreign conspiracy. Furthermore, he demanded that the foreign funding case against his party be heard together with similar cases against PML-N and the PPP.
The former prime minister urged his supporters to "remain peaceful and not engage in politics of confrontation". We have always done peaceful protests and our movement will remain peaceful. I want to warn ... don't do anything that this movement changes [into something else] because I don't want to see this country suffer in any way."
'Khan never said no when asked for something for Karachi'
Earlier, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi criticised the current government's policies and compared it unfavorably with Khan's recently dissolved government.
"I remember last year, the Israeli army attacked Al-Aqsa and Muslims were martyred. What did Imran Khan say? He told me to go to the UN and raise voice for the oppressed Palestinians. I did not tweet like Shehbaz Sharif but fought case for the Palestinians and gained ceasefire," he said.
"Today, they [only] tweet and then they say they will make an independent foreign policy. Today, the oath wasn't taken, the cabinet hasn't been formed, yet sugar price has been hiked by 10 rupees, ghee by 30 rupees, and electricity by 4.5 rupees per unit. And oil and diesel price hikes are yet to come."
The party's central secretary general Asad Umar said that during PTI's government whenever he asked Khan for something for Karachi, "never did I hear no."
"The reason is that he (Khan) is Pakistan's only leader who does not belong to any one city, region, language or religion. He is the leader of every Pakistani.
"It's my faith that in this month of Ramazan, under Imran Khan's leadership, the dream of Quaid-e-Azam will be fulfilled by Imran Khan."
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, who is a key ally of the PTI, saluted "Karachi's passion", claiming that the city has "broken the record of Fatima Jinnah's gathering" for Khan.
He predicted that Khan would end the incumbent government before May 30 before he took aim at PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, calling him a "bandit".
In the end, he had a message for the military. "I want to talk to the Pakistan Army. We are with you," he said as he told the crowd to "wave Pakistan's flag so it can be seen that Karachi is with Pakistan's flag and Imran Khan".
Former Sindh governor Imran Ismail said that the entire city of Karachi was willing to take to the streets on Khan's call. He claimed that his party can shut down the entire city whenever it wants.
"We retain the power to shut down the city on half an hour's notice," he said. "We have done it in the past ... and we are restless to do it again. All we need is the go-ahead from you Khan sahab. We will take to the streets and teach them a lesson."
Former minister Ali Zaidi was also critical of Zardari, questioning: "What have you done with our city and people of our province?
"The people will never forgive you. When elections take place, there will be a PTI government in Sindh," he warned
PTI's local leadership warns MQM-P of political extinction
Prior to Khan's arrival at the venue, various PTI leaders from Sindh, including Faisal Vawda, Aslam khan, Khurram Sher Zaman, Haleem Adil Sheikh and Firdous Shamim Naqvi addressed the crowd.
The party's local leadership, during their speeches, criticised in particular their former regional ally Muttahidda Qaumi Movement-Pakistan. Sindh MPA Khurram Sher Zaman branded the MQM-P "traitors", possibly referring to their severing of ties with the PTI at a crucial time that cost them their government.
PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi termed the MQM-P a party that "destroyed the city" and predicted that its seats would be reduced to "zero" in the next elections.
Size of the stage
MPA Shahzad Qureshi said that the stage — set up in the shadow of the Quaid’s mausoleum — "has been built using 100 containers”, adding that “we have never seen such a huge stage for any rally in Karachi.”
A day ago, Khan requested his supporters to carry the Pakistani flag to tonight's gathering, adding that the "fight now was for the country's sovereignty and real democracy".
PTI leader Imran Ismail claimed the power show would be the "biggest in Pakistan's history" and said Khan was expected to speak by 9pm.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said it didn't matter whether the PTI was censored, banned or its coverage blocked, the people would still come out for an independent and sovereign Pakistan.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed the "entire country" would come out to protest and every city would present scenes similar to Karachi — the "heart" of the campaign. "The ones to black out this movement will themselves get blacked out," he said.
On Wednesday, Chaudhry along with PTI leader Hammad Azhar had called for protests across the country every Saturday to “reclaim the freedom lost to the United States of America”.
The Karachi police made detailed security arrangements and as admitted by the PTI leadership, the party extended every possible help for the security.
However, the party itself has a pool of over a thousand volunteers for all arrangements, including security, seating and movement of shuttle service from the designated points to bring families to Bagh-i-Jinnah.
“We have devised a plan. For families, we have asked to take a route that would lead them to Society traffic intersection from where they can enter Bagh-i-Jinnah through Shahrah-i-Quaideen,” Shahzad Qureshi said. “Those coming from Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Jauhar or through University Road can park their vehicles at the VIP gate of Mazar-i-Quaid.
"Similarly, parking arrangements have been made at Nishtar Park, KGA Ground and China Ground from where a shuttle service would bring the families to the venue.”
The PTI rally is being held less than a week after a storm of people thronged the Millennium Mall traffic intersection from all over the city on the call of the PTI chairman for agitation against his removal from the government via a no-confidence vote.
Even PTI critics and political pundits had no doubt that the PTI through its Saturday rally was going to “prove its Karachi power again”.
The party claimed that the show had already begun and it would not be a “less than a million people crowd” which would roar with its leader at Bagh-i-Jinnah against the “selected government”.