PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Saturday said his party will be moving the Supreme Court on Monday (tomorrow) to seek protection for their right to a peaceful protest.

He also announced petitioning high courts to seek registration of cases against those responsible for using brute force against his party workers during their march on the capital on Wednesday.

“We have decided to take up the matter at all forums, the Supreme Court, the high courts and human rights organisations internationally,” he told a press conference after presiding over the PTI’s core committee meeting.

The announcement comes after Mr Khan at a presser on Friday urged the judiciary to “clarify” its position and “play your role”. He said he had written a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan, asking whether his party had the right to protest peacefully.

Imran says party will also move court against police officers who used force against workers

Flanked by PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Punjab health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, the party chief repeated his demand to the government: “Announce the date for fresh elections within six days,” he said, and warned that he had given clear directions to his party to prepare for another ‘Azadi March’.

“This time, we will come fully prepared. There will be a strategy,” he said, but added the date for the next round of the ‘long march’ would be announced after seeking clear directives from the superior courts.

“We are going to ask a simple question from the Supreme Court: don’t we have a democratic right to hold a peaceful protest?” he said.

“This is a test for the democratic process and respectfully, this is also your test — the judiciary,” he remarked, while referring to the Supreme Court.

The former premier said they would specifically seek registration of cases against police officers of Lahore and Islamabad, and declared the party would release photographs of the officers on social media for everybody to recognise them.

He called upon all the “responsible institutions” to play their part and save the country from destruction. “I want to ask all respectable institutions, do you realise where this country is heading? It is the responsibility of all institutions that have allowed convicted people to rule to play their role or they would be held responsible.”

Answering a reporter’s question, Mr Khan said he was open to negotiations with all, but insisted this would only happen after the announcement of a date for fresh elections. He said negotiations over the appointment of a chief election commissioner and composition of a caretaker set-up could be held in the second phase.

When asked about the possibility of his party legislators returning to the National Assembly, the former prime minister avoided giving a direct answer and seemed to leave the option open, provided the government announces fresh elections.

During the press conference, Khan recalled time and again the teargas shelling and other alleged incidents of high-handedness by the law enforcers during the recent march, which he ended abruptly early on Thursday morning after an intense build-up throughout the previous day.

Apart from approaching the apex court, Imran said cases would also be registered against the Lahore deputy inspector general of police (operations) and Islamabad inspector general of police.

He also denied his party workers were involved in torching trees in the federal capital and instead blamed PML-N workers and the police for the incident. He claimed his party had always believed in peaceful protests and recalled that not a single item was broken during his marathon sit-in in Islamabad in 2014. He also claimed the case involving an attack on the Pakistan Television headquarters in 2014 was fake.

A reporter also asked Mr Khan about the comments of his previous cabinet minister Sheikh Rashid that the PTI’s long march would be a “bloody march”, and that such remarks negated the PTI chief’s narrative that the party’s protests are peaceful involving women and children as well.

Apparently finding it hard to defend his close associate, Imran said: “He is a very senior politician whose party is the PTI’s coalition partner, and he has his own way. I can only speak for myself; maybe he knows the Sharifs’ tactics after working with them for a long time. Our party attracts people from across the board because we have a broad-based approach. This is why I have never advocated violence and have also asked the SC for clarification and protection for the next protest rally.”

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Rashid narrated the incidents of use of force by police against the PTI’s women activists, including herself, in Lahore.

Former federal minister Hammad Azhar criticised the government that he alleged had brought the country close to an economic collapse. He also claimed to have convinced the Russians to sell fuel to Pakistan at subsidised rates.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2022

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