PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan on Monday claimed that a different strategy would be devised for the ‘second round’ of his party’s long march on Islamabad if the Supreme Court didn’t provide “protection” to the marchers against police violence, as witnessed during last week’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’.

“We have already approa­ched the Supreme Court to avoid police actions, and if they are not protected then we will march on Islamabad with better planning,” the former premier said while addressing the Insaf lawyers’ convention at Nishtar Hall here.

“Today, I am requesting the Supreme Court to issue a ruling that under which law the marchers were stopped on May 25. The next time we will be marching, will the court allow the government to repeat its actions?” he asked.

Mr Khan also urged the legal fraternity to stand firm for the supremacy of the Constitution as, he said, Pakistan was passing through a defining stage, otherwise history will not forgive them (judges and lawyers).

Imran claims he ‘cancelled’ D-Chowk sit-in as some supporters were armed, could have led to bloodshed

“It is your responsibility to safeguard the rule of law and you have to uphold it,” the former premier said while pointing towards the lawyers. He also urged the SC to monitor the cases of the Sharif family and appoint a monitoring judge for it. If the legal fraternity couldn’t punish the big fish involved in corruption and looting this country, all the prisoners in jails for petty crimes across Pakistan should be released, he remarked.

Imran Khan also demanded the Lahore High Court take notice of Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz losing majority in the provincial assembly and “ceasing to be” the chief executive.

During his address, he also referred to the teargas shelling and other incidents of alleged high-handedness by police used during the previous long march. Mr Khan claimed his government was toppled at a time when the country’s economy was booming, remittances and tax collections had reached record levels.

Also addressing on the occasion, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan claimed the protesters in last week’s long march of the PTI were peaceful, but warned that if the next time the Punjab police was unleashed on “peaceful marchers”, “I will use the KP forces to retaliate”.

Imran Khan has been in Peshawar since May 20. He arrived here on the request of Chief Minister Khan when he decided to lead the first round of the PTI’s protest march from the provincial capital.

“The PTI leadership also apprehended the possible arrest of Imran Khan prior to the long march, so KP was a safe place for him to begin the rally from,” a PTI leader told Dawn. Cases had been registered against Mr Khan so they were waiting for his bail from court, he added. Besides, Khan was scheduled to address public rallies in Shangla and Buner on June 2 and 3, respectively, he said. “Most probably after addressing both rallies, he will move to Islamabad or Lahore.”

‘PTI supporters were armed’

Meanwhile, during an interview with 92 News on Monday, when anchor Moeed Pirzada asked the PTI chief why he cancelled his plan to hold a sit-in at D-Chowk at the last moment, despite an announcement just a few hours prior to that, Mr Khan said he decided this around 5am on Thursday after getting feedback from his people on the ground because, he declared, if he had decided to go ahead it would have led to bloodshed as some of his supporters were armed with weapons.

“I saw videos that they were abusing police while being shelled with teargas, and my presence would have emboldened them. We got the impression that Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah had asked the army to leave it to them and they’ll deal with the protesters – as they murdered the supporters of Tahirul Qadri in Model Town and nothing became of it. Anti-police sentiments were running high and if I had moved ahead I was 100pc sure it would have led to an exchange of gunfire because I saw our people were also carrying pistols.”

He further said the ensuing violence would have only benefited the “corrupt rulers imposed on us” as they would have pinned it on the PTI. “My party has a record of never indulging in politics of violence and I wanted the common people to come out, including families,” he further said in his response.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2022

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