Imran plans whirlwind campaign as Punjab by-polls near

Published July 5, 2022
PTI chairperson Imran Khan during an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. — Screengrab via Deutsche Welle YouTube
PTI chairperson Imran Khan during an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. — Screengrab via Deutsche Welle YouTube

• PTI asks SC to take notice of ‘phone-tapping’
• Ex-PM tells Deutche Welle he wouldn’t have visited Russia if he knew invasion was imminent

ISLAMABAD: As electioneering picks up steam ahead of by-polls in at least 20 constituencies of Punjab slated to be held on July 17, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has decided to go on a rally spree across the province wherein he would address dozens of public gatherings, including four in Lahore, from July 7-15.

According to the schedule issued by the former ruling party, Mr Khan would kick off the drive in Lahore’s PP-158 constituency on July 7 to support PTI candidate Akram Usman. On the same day, he would head to Sheikhupura to address a rally in PP-140.

On July 8, he would address public gatherings in PP-83 (Khushab) and PP-7 (Rawalpindi). On July 9, he would address meetings in PP-125 (Hazari Jhang) and PP-202 (Sahiwal).

On July 11, Mr Khan is expected to address supporters in PP-224 and PP-228, two constituencies of Lodhran; Muzaffargarh’s PP-272 and PP-273, and Bahawalnagar’s PP-237 constituency.

Similarly, on July 12, the PTI chairman would address rallies in PP-90 (Bhakkar) and PP-282 (Layyah).

Likewise, on July 13, Mr Khan would go to Jhang and Faisalabad to address supporters in PP-127 and PP-97, respectively. On July 14, Imran Khan would address public gatherings in PP-217 (Multan) and PP-288 (Dera Ghazi Khan). As per the schedule, on July 15, the PTI chairman would visit Lahore and address rallies in three constituencies of PP-167, 168 and 170.

Phone-tapping

In a separate development, the PTI urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the “phone tapping” of the PTI leadership, including former premier Imran Khan. Shireen Mazari warned that if a conversation between ex-prime minister Imran Khan and his former principal secretary was leaked then it would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act.

She said that the process of phone tapping falls under the category of contempt of court but even then the security line of Imran Khan’s house was also tapped, as journalist Ansar Abbasi hinted that a telephone audio of Imran Khan and Azam Khan, then his principal secretary, would be leaked.

Addressing a press conference along with PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, Ms Mazari said in light of the Supreme Court decision in the Benazir Bhutto case, the practice of tapping phones would be akin to contempt of court. She alleged that Mr Khan’s telephone calls were being monitored to hide the “conspiracy” that resulted in his ouster from power.

According to Ms Mazari, phone-tapping was “illegal and only intelligence agencies can do it because they had the means and the technical ability” to monitor calls. She wondered how much the United States “helped in the tapping of the phone calls”. Ms Mazari was alluding to an alleged conspiracy peddled by Imran Khan that the US was behind his ouster from power.

She alleged that the phone conversations were being leaked because the government and the powers-that-be were “afraid of the massive power shows” by Imran Khan-led PTI and the “absence of corruption evidence” against the former premier.

Fawad Chaudhry, meanwhile, challenged the authorities to register a case against former first lady Bushra Bibi so that she could respond to the allegations in the wake of an audio leak attributed to her. “If a case has not been registered, then how can a warrant be issued?” he asked.

‘Malicious campaign brainchild of Bushra’

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb responded to the presser and said that it proved that the “malicious campaign run by the PTI against the state institutions was a brainchild of Bushra Bibi”.

Mr Chaudhry and Ms Mazari had “confessed that Bushra Bibi was spearheading the campaign against the state institutions” she added. Ms Aurangzeb said both PTI leaders in their presser had confirmed the authenticity of Bushra Bibi’s purported clip.

Ukraine visit

Separately, in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), the former prime minister said that had he known about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he would not have visited the country in February of this year.

Mr Khan said the invasion took place the morning after he arrived in Moscow and he had no idea that this would happen.

“Had I known, I certainly would not have ... taken that trip. But as it turned out, we were already there and [the] next morning was the invasion.”

However, the prime minister defended his visit and the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the time when Russian tanks were entering Ukraine.

He said the visit was planned a long time ago with an aim to “improve Pakistan’s relationship with Russia.”

He explained that Pakistan never had good relationship with Russia as it was considered a part of the western bloc during the cold war.

However, he added that all the stakeholders in Pakistan were consulted when the possibility of Russian invasion into Ukraine emerged.

“Even when we heard that there was a chance of something [invasion], we had a consultation. All of us sat together. [and] our foreign office came to the conclusion that if we cancel it this time, this will put our relationship with Russia in the cold storage.”

He added that Pakistan couldn’t have taken that liberty as the country needed to import oil and wheat from Russia.

He, however reiterated his “anti-war stance” saying that if he was consulted about the war, he would “certainly have advised against it”.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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