Imran Khan gestures during the lawyers’ convention at Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star
Imran Khan gestures during the lawyers’ convention at Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star

GUJRANWALA / LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has pinpointed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as the key figure who allegedly manoeuvred a “foreign conspiracy” against the previous government in connivance with local abettors to get to the Prime Minister Office and save his skin in the Rs24 billion money laundering and assets beyond means cases.

“Shehbaz Sharif is now being asked by his partymen why he decided in haste to become the prime minister and put the entire PML-N under public pressure,” Mr Khan claimed while speaking at a big public gathering in Gujranwala on Wednesday. On his part, Shehbaz is asking all the quarters concerned what he should do as the rupee is losing value fast, foreign reserves are depleting and inflation increasing, the PTI chief remarked.

He said PM Sharif should make no mistake that he would be saved, adding that many strong investigators (after the death of FIA’s Dr Rizwan) would probe him, recover the alleged ill-gotten money and send him to jail very soon.

The former PM also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision on the presidential reference on Article 63A wherein it stated that votes polled by defecting legislators would not be counted.

“The Supreme Court ousted the defectors, who violated the mandate of their party as well as their voters, and voted for the rival party’s candidate – Hamza Shehbaz – in the chief minister’s election,” he said, adding Hamza would soon be stripped of his position.

The former premier proclaimed that time had come to hold both Sharif brothers and their families accountable for their alleged corruption. He further predicted a “sea of people” would reach Islamabad and sweep the PML-N-led coalition government away. He sought promises from the public that they would march on Islamabad on his call.

Khan said the public should not be afraid of the police because instead of stopping the PTI workers and masses from marching on the capital the officers would instead send their family members along. “Even the army soldiers will send their family members to the march,” he said, adding the procession would serve as a revolution leading to “real independence”.

The former premier said he never bowed down to anyone and would not lead the nation to bow before any supposed superpower.

Mr Khan then reiterated how his government had been toppled by a “corrupt mafia” at a time when he claimed Pakistan was rising on all fronts, including economy, exports and remittances. He claimed the PTI government kept petrol and diesel prices low and offered job opportunities to the masses to provide them relief. “Instead of distributing sweets (over ouster of his government), people came out on the roads and protested against the US conspiracy,” he exclaimed.

The PTI chief asserted PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was happy that the public was agitating against the PML-N and Shehbaz Sharif, while the former president was busy minting money.

Invitation to lawyers

Earlier in the day, while addressing a lawyers’ convention at Aiwan-i-Iqbal, Lahore hosted by the Lahore Bar Association (LBA), Mr Khan invited the legal fraternity to join his party’s upcoming long march. “We reject the regime change through an international conspiracy and establishment of a government of thieves and looters.”

He then asked the lawyers to join the PTI’s Islamabad march, not for him, but for the future of their children and the nation. He said the date of the march would be announced in the party’s Multan public meeting on May 20.

Khan also said he needed the support of the lawyers as, he alleged, the government would try to sabotage the protest march, which he called a “jihad” against corruption and for the rule of law. Referring to the campaigns for establishment of Pakistan and an independent judiciary, he said no movement could succeed without the participation of lawyers.

Lashing out at his archrival, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the PTI chairman said in no civilised society could rulers facing charges of money laundering get themselves exonerated by an investigation agency functioning under their own government. He alleged that PM Sharif changed the FIA investigation team that collected evidence of corruption against him and his sons.

Mr Khan asked the lawyers to move superior courts against the possible disposing of cases against the Shehbaz family. “If these rulers are to be let off scot-free then all prisoners should be released,” he added.

The former prime minister said the objective of the PTI’s movement was to make Pakistan a great country, eliminate corrupt politicians and break the shackles of US slavery permanently.

He had to keep his address short due to serious mismanagement during the convention as lawyers were not willing to get off the stage. Before Khan’s arrival, the LBA leadership kept requesting the lawyers to move away from the stage, but to no avail.

The former premier also said he wanted to deliver a lecture to the legal fraternity, but changed his plans since the convention had turned into a “jalsa” (public meeting).

Earlier, PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Ali Muhammad Khan, Pakistan Bar Council member Ishtiaq A Khan and Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Awais also spoke.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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