ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan warned that inflation is set to rise further and the country is headed towards becoming the next Sri Lanka, which is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence.
Addressing party workers across the country through video link, Mr Khan asked people to take to the streets against inflation “for their own good” and ramp up their struggle against the “imported government”.
PTI workers and supporters took to the streets in various cities across the country to protest against rising inflation on Mr Khan’s call.
At various protest sites, screens were installed for his online address that he delivered a little after 10pm.
Says PTI wants not just elections, but free and fair elections; claims conspiracy against PTI govt hampered economy
“I have called you to protest against price hike as it is in your own favour. The poor class, including salaried people, farmers and labourers, will suffer more because of the inflation. I will again give you a call for the protest, which will be continued until we get the date of the free and transparent election,” he said. “We do not want just elections. We want free and fair elections.”
He said the current government was claiming that Imran Khan had laid landmines, but the fact was that the PTI had increased petrol and diesel prices by just a few rupees while the incumbent rulers had raised it by more than Rs100.
Rejecting the notion that the recent price hikes were because of the International Monetary Fund’s programme, Mr Khan said the current government had been in the IMF programme for the last two weeks, but the PTI government was in the programme for the last two and a half years.
“We also got instructions by the IMF to increase prices, but we instead reduced the price of petrol by Rs10,” he said.
The former prime minister said the economy was in abysmal condition due to which international ratings of the country and its institutions had been downgraded, which would make it unable to get loans for dams.
Mr Khan also claimed that Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had asked for “relief” from the US envoy stationed in Islamabad.
“We took the remittances to $31bn and exports to $32bn. But then a conspiracy was hatched by Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq which hampered the economy,” he said.
“I contacted the neutrals and tried to convince them that it was not the right time to bring a new regime as they cannot control the issues and handle the economy,” Mr Khan said, using a euphemism to refer to the military.
“Khurram Dastgir has confessed that they have come to power because of the fear that [the then opposition] would have been sent to the jail by Imran Khan,” the PTI chief said.
The PTI protests were held in all major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan. The demonstrations are also being held in other cities of the country.
On Thursday, the PTI chief called on citizens to hold protests across the country on Sunday against the “imported” government.
In Lahore, a large number of protesters, including women and children, reached the Liberty Chowk, where a mega electronic screen was installed to display Mr Khan’s speech.
Speaking on the occasion, PTI central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid and general secretary Hammad Azhar said the flood of inflation had pushed the poor masses to commit suicide as they could hardly make ends meet.
In Karachi, too, hundreds of PTI workers and supporters congregated on Shahrah-e-Qauideen to join the countrywide demonstrations.
Led by former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, PTI’s Sindh president Ali Zaidi, senior leaders and legislators, the charged protesters, including women and children, chanted slogans and danced to party songs.
In Peshawar, many PTI workers gathered at Hashtnagri Chowk. A 20-foot screen was installed at the site to show Mr Khan’s speech. Former Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, MNA Arbab Aamir Ayub, KP Environment Minister Ishtiaq Urmar and female MPAs were also present on the occasion.
Earlier on Sunday, the PTI chairman contacted the party’s provincial leaderships in Sindh and Punjab over incidents of violence and the arrest of an MPA in Karachi and Lahore.
He also demanded that the NA-240 by-election be declared null and void, claiming that only eight per cent of the voters used the right to vote.
Mr Khan, who was ousted as prime minister earlier this year through a vote of no confidence in parliament, contacted PTI Sindh president Ali Zaidi and former governor Imran Ismail through telephone and inquired about the arrest of MPA Shabbir Qureshi in Karachi.
He also spoke to party leader Khalid Gujjar in Lahore and asked about his son, who was injured because of firing allegedly by PML-N workers.
While condemning the Sindh and Punjab police for the incidents, Mr Khan said the police did not take such steps in a democratic country.
Meanwhile, while chairing a meeting of the party’s political committee, Imran Khan said the Election Commission of Pakistan had failed to hold a peaceful and transparent election in just one constituency.
One person was killed and nine were injured due to violence on the election day, which was also marred by low turnout.
“Only 8pc people have cast their vote, which clearly indicates that they don’t trust the current electoral system. It is strange that the election commission has not declared the result of the election null and void. I demand that the election should be held again,” Mr Khan said.
According to a report submitted to the party chairman, the turnout in the June 16 by-poll was less than 9pc, as only 39,729 of the 529,855 registered people cast their votes. The report also claimed that most political parties had refused to accept the election results.
Lashing out at the government for back-breaking inflation, PTI leader and Mr Khan’s chief of staff Shahbaz Gill demanded that a judicial commission should be formed to probe the statement of PML-N leader Khurram Dastgir, “who tried to drag the military into politics”.
Addressing a press conference on Sunday, he said the reality of a cipher came to the fore after Khurram Dastgir’s “confession”, which had also exposed the government that it “conspired” to oust the PTI government earlier this year to secure an NRO 2 and not for the country’s betterment.
He said that Mr Dastagir should be asked as to why he had concerns about the change of the army chief, adding that the “thieves” knew that Imran Khan had come close to their accountability and therefore “they conspired and ganged up against him”.
He said the power minister tried to drag the army into politics and action should be taken against him.
Imran Ayub in Karachi, Mansoor Malik in Lahore and Manzoor Ali in Peshawar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022