• Rules out talks with Shehbaz, says no establishment can stand against its people
• Says march will take eight to nine more days to reach capital
• Nawaz taunts Imran over failure to gather crowds
• Will counter ‘disinformation’ with information, US responds to Imran’s allegation
LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan kicked off the fourth day of his ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ long march with an aggressive message, tweeting early on Monday that the sea of people on the roads with him indicated the dawn of a revolution, and asked “handlers and facilitators” if they would allow a soft revolution through the ballot or a destructive one through bloodshed.
Mr Khan posted: “The sea of people along our long march on the GT Road. I am witnessing a revolution taking over the country for six months. Only question is, will it be a soft one through the ballot box or a destructive one through bloodshed?”
On the other hand, former premier and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif taunted Mr Khan for ‘failing’ to gather even 2,000 people after claiming a million would support his demonstration.
In Monday’s address at the start of the march from Kamoke, the PTI chief warned the establishment to realise the pulse of the masses and remarked that “no establishment can stand against its people since their unity alone can guarantee a country’s stability and sovereignty”.
He further asked the establishment not to side with the corrupt and looters, as they too would be considered birds of the same feather. Reiterating that God didn’t allow anyone to be neutral, Mr Khan said the establishment would disgrace itself.
He also took on the Sharif and Zardari families for getting an “NRO” from former president Gen Pervez Musharraf. The “people of Pakistan ousted them by giving us [PTI] the mandate to rule in 2018, but the establishment again imposed those corrupt thieves on the masses — after dry-cleaning”, he stated.
Mr Khan said he wanted to send a message to the powerful quarters that held the real power that he would never hold talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whom he called an establishment ‘tout’ who “polished boots”.
“If the people and institutions look in the opposite directions, no institution can work,” he commented, adding he was the only leader who had public support, as he won 75 per cent of the by-elections during the last six months and created a “world record” by winning seven out of eight National Assembly seats in one go.
The former premier addressed the long march participants at three points – Kamoke, Morr Aimenabad and the day’s culmination point of Chan Da Qila, some 12 kilometres short of Gujranwala. He announced that he would spend the entire Tuesday (today) in Gujranwala, claiming it would take some eight to nine more days to reach Islamabad owing to the slow pace of the march. He invited people from the lengths and breadths of the country to reach the capital.
The PTI chief said the entire country was watching the “revolution” heading towards Islamabad, even on their mobile phones, as the “imported government and its handlers” were trying to close their eyes and blacking out TV coverage.
Taking Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja to task after claiming that the Islamabad High Court had set aside his disqualification by the election commission, the former premier called the CEC dishonest and a servant of the Sharif family.
Since Mr Raja had questioned his integrity, he said he would send the CEC a Rs10 billion defamation notice. He also explained that people were giving Rs9bn donation to Shaukat Khanum Hospital as well as funding his Namal and Al-Qadir universities because of his “honesty and integrity”. “If I commit any illegality, I will not wait for a court decision, I’ll go home myself,” he maintained.
At Morr Aimenabad, Imran Khan called the long march a “jihad” to bring about ‘real independence’ where the powerful and weak were rewarded and punished on merit.
“Shehbaz Sharif should have been in jail, but was made the prime minister,” he said, adding the “mercenary” Rana Sanaullah was made the interior minister. Similarly, he said, Nawaz Sharif was convicted after two years of investigations by a JIT, adding the present, imposed rulers were looting the country for 30 years.
Mr Khan also took an oath from the march participants at the culmination of the day’s procession that they would continue struggling for ‘real independence’ and be ready to render any sacrifice.
No talks, face-saving for Imran
Meanwhile, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif on Monday instructed his younger brother, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, against accepting the demands of PTI Chairman Khan. “Don’t listen to any demand of this fitna (rabble-rouser) nor give him any chance of face-saving,” he tweeted late on Monday evening.
Taking a jibe at Mr Khan and his long march, the former premier said the one who claimed to bring one million people out on the streets could not even manage to gather 2,000 people. In a series of tweets, Mr Sharif said he had asked the PM not to bow before Khan’s demands whether he brought 2,000 protesters or 20,000. The PTI chairman should also not be given any chance of face-saving. Instead, he said, Shehbaz should focus all his energies on serving the public.
Nawaz went on to state that ever since Khan’s lies had been exposed, the nation had become indifferent to his narrative. “He told one lie after another so brutally and brazenly that the ISI DG was forced to break his silence and tell the truth to the nation,” he said, adding Khan had failed to come up with any clarification since then.
“That is why his entire focus is limited to swearing as per routine,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, on the orders of the Punjab chief minister, five policemen, including City Station House Officer (SHO) Manzar Saeed, were suspended over alleged clashes with journalists covering the PTI’s long march.
Reportedly, policemen allegedly harassed reporters of a private TV channel over parking of DSNG vans that ended up in a scuffle at Kamoke City Chowk. City SHO Saeed and his team also reached the spot and allegedly tortured the journalists.
Punjab CM Chaudhry Parvez Elahi took notice of the police’s behaviour and suspended five officials, including the SHO.
In a separate development, the United States said that it would continue to counter disinformation with information.
While commenting on Imran Khan's persistent claim of a US conspiracy to topple his government, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said: "What we can do is counter disinformation, misinformation with information."
Mr Price, who was addressing a daily news briefing in Washington, said the State Department had rejected such claims "many times" from this podium as there's no truth to these allegations.
"We won't let propaganda, we won't let misinformation or disinformation get in the way of an important bilateral relation, including our valued bilateral partnership with Pakistan," he reiterated.
Responding to another question, Mr Price noted that general elections in Pakistan had not yet been announced, but "we support the peaceful holding of constitutional and democratic elections, not just in Pakistan but around the world. These are issues that we discuss with all of our partners around the world."
Akram Malik in Gujranwala and Anwar Iqbal in Washington also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2022