LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) plans to conclude its rallies under the “election karao, mulk bachao (hold elections, save the country)” campaign by Friday, and on Saturday hold a ‘large’ public gathering in the provincial capital where party chief Imran Khan will announce his ‘final’ plan to dissolve the two provincial assemblies his party heads.

Talking to the media at the Zaman Park residence of Mr Khan, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said the party planned to hold simultaneous rallies at all divisional headquarters on Saturday where Imran Khan’s address would be broadcast through a video link.

“The main rally will be arranged at Liberty Chowk (Lahore) on Saturday and the rest of the country will participate in the event through a video link,” he said.

The local and provincial leadership of the party, including Punjab President Dr Yasmin Rashid and Mr Azhar, met Mr Khan on Tuesday to finalise the plan and arrangements for, what they called, ‘D-Day’.

PTI chief demands apology from Omni Group, wants them to withdraw legal notice

Meanwhile, Senior Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal of the PTI, briefing the media at a different location, said his party and its allies were “on the same page” on the dissolution of the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A meeting has been called under the chair of PTI chief Khan to finalise a date for the dissolution, which would be announced in a large public gathering at Liberty Chowk.

“In my personal opinion, the assemblies should be dissolved before Dec 20 so that elections can be held before Ramazan,” the minister suggested.

Mr Iqbal was also quoted by a section of the media as saying that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had already handed over a summary for the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly to Mr Khan (for onward forwarding for completing the dissolution process).

On the other hand, beyond the brave face put up by the party leadership and its stalwarts, its parliamentarians and allies reportedly remain divided over the plan, claim party insiders. “Because the dissolution does not make electoral and political sense, a view most of the parliamentarians hold,” said an important provincial minister.

Advising realism, he continued: “The PTI parliamentarians hold this view for two reasons: Imran Khan never consulted them before announcing it at the Rawalpindi rally and he never bothered to explain the benefits the party got by quitting the National Assembly in the first place.”

“Funds have just started flowing into our constituencies and quitting at this stage is a sure recipe for an electoral disaster; funds will stop flowing and the PTI will be contesting the next elections as an opposition party. It hardly makes political sense if one takes a reasoned assessment of the prevailing situation,” he remarked.

Imran’s reply to Omni Group notice

Meanwhile, responding to the Omni Group’s defamation notice, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has demanded its withdrawal along with an apology.

In his reply, sent through Barristers Hassaan Khan Niazi and Mian Waleed Ashraf, the PTI chief has termed the notice “baseless, illegal, fake and absolutely wrong”.

Last month, Omni Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdul Ghani Majid had sent a Rs9 billion defamation notice to Mr Khan for alleging in a speech that the CEO had entered into a plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau. In the notice, Mr Majid had demanded an unconditional apology within 14 days and asked Mr Khan to refrain from making baseless and fabricated allegations against the group in future.

However, in his reply, the PTI chief said the notice was completely flawed in law, and did not meet the rules and regulations of the Defamation Ordinance 2002. He said in July 2018, a report of the joint investigation team, formed on the orders of the Supreme Court, revealed the close relationship between the Omni Group, Zardari Group and Bahria Town.

“A plea bargain was entered (into) and approved by the accountability court in tune of Rs9 billion, which again is an admitted fact,” it stated, adding the notice under the reply was unfounded, illegal, frivolous and incorrect.

“Therefore, the notice sent by Omni Group is baseless, illegal, fake and completely wrong, thus the Omni Group should withdraw its notice immediately and tender an apology to the PTI chairman,” it stated.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2022

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