PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday urged the youth of the country — which he also dubbed the "attack force" — to power through all obstacles placed by the government on their way to Islamabad as part of his party's long march that is set to begin tomorrow.
Addressing the party's youth wing in Peshawar, Imran said he hoped the youth already knew its responsibilities. "Our attack force, comprising all of you, will be responsible to remove all impediments when we begin our march tomorrow," Imran told the gathering of the PTI's youth wing.
His message for the youth was in the context of the government's decision to stop the match in order to prevent "chaos and disorder". To prevent the marchers from entering the capital, hundreds of containers have been provided to Islamabad police while a ban has been imposed on gatherings under Section 144 (power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The PTI chief said his government had never barred the opposition from protests or rallies during its three and a half years in power, however, "they (the current government) are cracking down on our leaders and their families as if they are criminals or traitors of the country."
Imran said his march would be the test of the judiciary, police, 'neutrals' as well as the bureaucracy on "where they actually stand".
"We will see whether you support these thieves and servants of America or support the real independence of Pakistan," the ex-PM said.
He reiterated that he would lead all his party workers, leaders and participants tomorrow to Islamabad. "Whoever tries to stop this march will be swept away by the sea of people."
He told his supporters to consider the march as "jihad" and not politics. "You must prepare yourselves [in advance] as the government might suspend mobile networks and target other communication modes."
He said his struggle would continue until the marchers got an election date, assemblies were dissolved and the imported government was sent packing.
'Neutrals', judges should do 'the right thing'
Imran lashed out at the government for trying to stop the party's long march, asking the country's judiciary and 'neutrals' to "do the right thing".
He expressed these views while addressing a news conference in Peshawar earlier in the day, in which he pilloried the government and described its recent moves as "akin to what dictators do".
His speech came a day after a police crackdown on his party workers, in which a number of workers were allegedly rounded up. A policeman was also martyred the same night in an operation in Lahore. The government and the PTI blame each other for the killing.
At the outset of his press conference, Imran said that this was a "defining moment for the country" which would decide its fate. He asserted that there was no difference between the "fascist government" and the military dictators of the past, saying that both used the same tactics.
He maintained that during the PTI government's tenure, the then opposition was allowed to stage protests and long marches several times. "They marched several times with the purpose of ousting the government but did we resort to these methods?"
Imran lashed out at the government for conducting late-night raids in Lahore and for barging into the homes of innocent citizens. He questioned why the government was suddenly resorting to such tactics, calling on them to highlight any instance in the past where he had ever broken the law.
The PTI chairman said that the country was looking towards the judiciary, telling them that this was their "trial". "The country is going to look at your decisions," he said, asserting that the long march was a peaceful protest and the party's democratic right.
He went on to say that the PTI had a right to stage a protest against the "imported conspiracy". "Did we protest when Bilawal staged a long march? Did we arrest him? Fazlur Rehman also staged a march [...] we said we would help them."
Addressing the judiciary, he asked whether it would allow such harassment and raids to take place. "If you allow this, then the credibility of the judiciary will cease to exist. It would mean that there is no democracy in Pakistan."
He then addressed the country's bar associations, asking why they were not condemning the government's actions. "I want to thank the lawyers [of the country] who are standing to protect the democracy of the country. But the bar associations that are not issuing condemnations, the nation is looking at you. Are you standing with [the government]?"
He asserted that "staying neutral" was no longer an option. "You have to decide which side you are on. God has not given us permission to walk in the middle, that means that you are helping the criminals."
Addressing "those who call themselves neutral", he said that they had taken an oath to protect the country's independence and sovereignty. "You need to understand that the public is looking at you, and you will also be judged. You will be equally responsible if the country goes towards destruction."
He asserted that the only solution going forward was to conduct early elections. "There is no other solution," he said, expressing the fear that the country was headed down the path of Sri Lanka, which is currently in the throes of an economic crisis.
The government wasn't interested in serving the country and only wanted to end their corruption cases. "Therefore, I want to give a message to everyone: Neutrals and lawyers, this is a defining moment."
'Death is better than slavery'
"These people... this cabinet of thieves, 60pc of whom are out on bail and if the rest are investigated, it will be apparent what sort of cases will be on them".
"Their leaders, whose wealth is abroad, were brought in by the Americans, by a conspiracy, and after that I will accept these criminals -- I believe death is better than that.
"Death is better than slavery under them," he said emphatically. "This is why I have declared jihad."
Referring to the events of last night, he exhorted his supporters to "break the shackles of fear, for God's sake". There were 4,000 Britishers who ruled by fear over the more than 400 million people in the Subcontinent. "People were afraid," he said. "Fear makes slaves of humans."
Commenting on last night's raid at the home of retired Justice Nasira Iqbal, he said: "Her house was raided last night [...] I want to ask the neutrals and the judiciary, the scenes that you are witnessing, what kind of government can do this? Not a democratic one."
He asserted that he would lead a rally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Islamabad tomorrow, saying that for him this was no longer about politics but was a "jihad".
Imran alleged that the current government had been brought into power by the United States because it would bend over backwards for them. "All of their assets are abroad, they are slaves [...] 400 drone attacks were carried out when Zardari and Nawaz were in government but they did not say a single word."
He called on his supporters to "leave fear behind" as the government was trying its best to intimidate the PTI. "Will we accept the government of thieves because we fear going to jail? How many people will they send to jail, do they have that many officials? They can't do it. You don't have to be scared of anything."
He gave the example of Afghanistan and praised the people for "overcoming their fear", and standing against any invading force. "No one could rule them. They have defeated superpowers. Should a nation of 220 million people accept simply because we are afraid of jail?
"I am telling you I am not concerned about my life and you are afraid of jail? How many people can they throw in jail? Tell me how many can go to jail?"
Imran said that even though the government had closed down Islamabad and Rawalpindi, his supporters should still leave their homes for the long march. "They don't have that many police officials to carry out arrests."
He also claimed that a "criminal" had been posted as the Islamabad police chief and questioned how the Punjab police force could follow the orders of Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz when cases were pending against him. "Action will be taken against the bureaucracy if you follow unlawful orders," he warned.
In his message to the youth, Imran said that the country's future was at stake. "There is no future if these leaders stay. There are two paths: one is destruction and the other is real independence," he said, reiterating that he would set out tomorrow for the long march with his caravan.
"If someone wants to stop us, do it. But no one can stop this sea of people."