• Former PM marshals supporters for Islamabad push at massive power show in Lahore
• Rejects govt body to probe Lettergate, demands open hearing in Supreme Court
• Sheikh Rashid accuses Asif Zardari of ‘murdering’ his way to the top
LAHORE: Former prime minister Imran Khan has called upon the entire nation to get ready for a nationwide movement to achieve “real” independence and democracy, and sent a message to ‘whoever made the mistake’ of ousting him that the only way to rectify it lay in early elections.
Thousands of men, women, minor children and the elderly thronged the Greater Iqbal Park on Thursday for the much-hyped rally by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), voicing aloud their support for former prime minister Imran Khan in rejecting dictates of foreign masters and ensuring sovereignty and self-respect.
The weather turned pleasant in the evening and a light drizzle after Iftar also helped, and by the time Mr Khan took to the stage, the venue had filled with families, including children, who turned up to vociferously support Mr Khan’s narrative.
Pouncing on the newly-formed government in the centre, Mr Khan told the highly charged crowd on the lawns of Minar-i-Pakistan: “We will never accept this imported government.”
He called upon the people of the entire country, including those belonging to the PML-N and PPP, who wanted to get rid of the “foreign masters’ slavery”, to start preparing in every nook and corner, and “wait for my call to reach Islamabad”. Expressing his respect for the Pakistan Army and the police for being state institutions, Mr Khan said he did not want any clash, but the momentum of the “independence movement” will pick up.
The former premier took an oath from the crowd that they would stay in struggle mode to achieve “real independence” and democracy in the country until fresh elections were announced.
Observers say Mr Khan gave a clear message to the establishment that the only way to rectify its “mistake” of ousting him from power was to call fresh elections immediately. They believe the PTI would be launching massive protest demonstrations against the government after Eidul Fitr, as the party chairman asked for holding a prayer on the night of April 27.
Calling the incumbent government corrupt, which he alleged was formed on the dictation of foreign masters, Mr Khan rejected its announcement of constituting a commission to probe ‘Lettergate’.
“We will not accept any commission formed by this government,” he stated, and demanded the diplomatic cable should be discussed in an open hearing of the Supreme Court. “When the cable will be investigated openly, only then Pakistanis will know the conspiracy hatched against my government.”
Referring to the arrival of the cable and the consequent flight of PTI MNAs to Sindh House to support the opposition for its no-confidence motion, Mr Khan asked the superior courts whether it was not a violation of law and constitution that an MNA elected on a PTI ticket was accepting bribe to vote against his party.
‘Treasonous’ to vote for turncoats
After seeking a remedy from the courts, he urged the people to reject all the turncoats and make sure they never won from any constituency in the next general elections. “You will be committing treason if you vote for these turncoats,” he warned the general public.
The former prime minister also lambasted the chief election commissioner (CEC) for allegedly deciding all the cases against the PTI government and supporting the PML-N, adding the CEC should be given a high office in the PML-N.
The country was dependent on the billions of dollars in remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis, Mr Khan said, demanding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also simultaneously hear the foreign funding cases of the PML-N and PPP. “When there is a fair investigation, everything becomes crystal clear.”
Explaining what he believed were the reasons behind the conspiracy allegedly hatched to oust his government, the PTI chairman said he always tried to set an independent foreign policy in the best interest of Pakistan, raised his voice against Islamophobia and refusal to join any country’s war on a foreign land. He said he went to Russia against the advice and threats by “foreign masters” just so he could buy gas, petrol, diesel and wheat on 30 per cent less price that could help reduce inflation in Pakistan. “The foreign masters did not like my actions and started hatching a conspiracy and that too with the help of local abettors,” he claimed.
Mr Khan further recounted his government’s supposed achievements for economic growth, increased remittances and record tax collection despite coronavirus playing havoc world over.
Responding to the allegation of keeping gifts from the Toshakhana, he said the previous governments used to keep the state gifts by just paying 15pc of their price, but he raised this bar to 50pc. “I purchased all the gifts by paying 50pc price, which is on record and the proceeds after selling those gifts were used for the construction of roads,” he claimed.
Warming up the crowd
Ahead of the PTI chairman’s speech, other party leaders kept the crowd charged with their fiery statements, saying the former premier was striving to make Pakistan an independent state through an independent foreign policy. They said the alleged US conspiracy was not just against the PTI government, but the Pakistani nation to keep it enslaved. They said Imran Khan, after his ouster from the prime minister’s office, had displayed his public strength at the Minar-i-Pakistan that followed his mass public meetings in Peshawar and Karachi.
Earlier, the Lahore deputy commissioner had written a letter to PTI leaders that owing to security threats, the former premier must address the public gathering virtually. As Mr Khan shunned any threat, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed ensuring foolproof security to the PTI rally.
The interior minister had been instructed to take immediate and strict action on any security threats. Home secretaries of all the provinces were also instructed to ensure foolproof security during the travel of Imran Khan anywhere in the country.
At the rally, PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that anti-Pakistan elements were now busy hatching another conspiracy to get Mr Khan disqualified through the ECP and ban the PTI from participating in elections.
The charged crowd rejected the conspiracy when Mr Qureshi asked whether they would allow such elements to succeed in their nefarious designs.
PTI secretary general Asad Umer asserted that the nation would not bow before any foreign power or dictation.
Rashid’s allegations against Zardari
Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid alleged PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari got his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, killed and came to power through fake documents. He also accused Mr Zardari of having Benazir’s brothers Murtaza killed and Shahnawaz poisoned. However, Mr Rashid probably forgot that Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto had got married in 1987, while Shahnawaz Bhutto was murdered two years earlier.
The former minister also claimed a global conspiracy had been hatched against Imran Khan and the whole nation stood united to foil it. He warned Pakistan might face a civil war if anyone tried to harm Imran Khan, and said the PTI chairman was right in saying the Pakistan Army was the best force in the region.
Former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI had gathered the nation once again to translate the 1947 independence into real independence. “We will get back our independence and the foreign powers will be punished and pushed back,” he declared.
Moonis’ sexist remark for Hamza
PML-Q leader and former federal minister Moonis Elahi said the PTI Punjab team was well-trained, and lauded the ministers and women MPAs, who stood tall against the PML-N and PPP opposition in the Punjab Assembly.
Chiding the PML-N-led opposition’s candidate for the Punjab chief minister, Hamza Shehbaz, Mr Elahi stooped to making sexist remarks, and asked the PTI women MPAs to gift Hamza a vanity kit as he was always interested in his make-up.
Former federal minister Murad Saeed said Imran Khan was the only leader, who stood and raised his voice against Islamophobia.
Former minister Hammad Azhar said a mass public movement had been initiated in Pakistan against an alleged US conspiracy to oust Imran Khan as the prime minister. He said millions of people had taken to streets from Khyber to Karachi for the sake of their future as well as Pakistan. He said the corrupt leaders had been given power in Pakistan through a conspiracy.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2022