LAHORE: As scores of supporters gathered outside his residence to resist a potential bid to arrest the PTI chairman on Wednesday, Imran Khan — in a televised address — claimed he was shocked to see the establishment was still backing his rivals, adding that he would continue to challenge those who orchestrated his ouster.
As soon as news about the possible arrest of the former premier reached party workers, PTI supporters and leaders gathered at Zaman Park to defend their leader. Rumours of the threat of Mr Khan’s imminent arrest had also brought Fawad Chaudhry to Zaman Park around 4am on Wednesday, shortly before he was arrested from his residence early in the morning.
Workers started arriving at Zaman Park around 2am on Wednesday and remained camped outside his residence through the day. Even Lahore’s cold weather and a drizzle could not dampen their spirits, as the crowd continued to swell throughout the day.
On Wednesday evening, PTI senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi issued a fresh call to party supporters and lawmakers in defence of Mr Khan. In a tweet, the he urged former PTI lawmakers and supporters to reach Zaman Park at once.
Qureshi urges party workers to throng PTI chief’s residence; ex-PM meets Elahi; claims establishment still backing PDM
The supporters – who kept busy with slogans and halwa poori – also vented their anger at interim Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, whom they blamed for the fresh crackdown on the former ruling party. Similarly, slogans in favour of Mr Khan echoed in Zaman Park throughout the day.
The protest to scuttle the purported plans to arrest Mr Khan also trended in digital spaces, particularly Twitter, where it remained one of the top trends.
The gathering also provided an opportunity for PTI leaders to hold intermittent media talks, expressing their unwavering commitment to the cause of Mr Khan.
PTI Punjab Central President Dr Yasmin Rashid, while speaking to media persons outside Zaman Park, condemned the arrest of Fawad Chaudhry and asserted that the party leaders, workers and people at large would not remain silent in the face of government’s high-handedness.
“These harsh actions by the incumbent government will not be able to shift PTI’s focus from its demand of free and fair elections,” she asserted.
‘Establishment backing PDM’
Later, in a televised address via video-link on Wednesday night, the PTI chairman addressed the judges of the apex court, saying that the people were looking to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Chief Justice of Pakistan for justice.
The PTI chairman said that he had “sacrificed” his party’s governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because the country needed free, fair and credible elections. He demanded that the judiciary ensure that general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be held within 90 days of the dissolution of assemblies.
“If there is a Constitution and law in this country, the election cannot go beyond 90 days,” he asserted.
Alleging that the establishment was supporting the PDM, the PTI chief said he was shocked to see how the powers that be had chosen to side with those who had been looting the country for the past three decades.
He also questioned what Fawad’s crime was. “It is a crime to call the election commissioner a munshi (clerk)?” he asked, referring to Mr Chaudhry’s press talk on Tuesday.
Mr Khan insisted the ECP was responsible for holding free and fair elections in the country, reiterating his criticism of the commission’s decision to appoint media mogul Mohsin Naqvi as the caretaker chief minister.
Mr Khan claimed that Naqvi had reinstated all the officials who were part of the cabinet of Hamza Shehbaz.
He claimed police had already started to harass PTI workers, adding that whatever was happening was being carried out “according to a plan”.
Separately, former CM Parvez Elahi also spoke to the PTI chief and took stock of the political situation. Mr Elahi said the nation was looking towards the judiciary to save the PTI workers and leaders from the wrath of the ‘fascist’ government.
Sources say Mr Elahi also told the PTI chief that he had warned him in so many words that the PDM government would unleash “the worst kind of torture” against PTI and PML-Q leaders and workers if he dissolved both assemblies and handed over power to his opponents.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2023