LAHORE: PTI Chairman Imran Khan will formally launch his party’s election campaign by leading a rally from his Zaman Park residence to Data Darbar on Wednesday.

The chairman will be riding on a bomb and bullet proof vehicle during the rally, PTI central Punjab general secretary Hammad Azhar announced at a press conference on Monday, underlining threat to Mr Khan’s life. Mahmoodur Rasheed and other PTI leaders were present on the occasion.

On Sunday, the former premier wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan, seeking adequate security arrangements for him. As he faces dozens of cases, the PTI chief requested that he be allowed to join court proceedings through video link to avoid his exposure in public.

While recalling that an attempt was made to assassinate him, Mr Khan accused the prime minister, interior minister and a senior intelligence agency officer of involvement in the Wazirabad attack.

Mr Azhar said that on his way to Data Darbar the former PM would address party workers and supporters at different locations from his vehicle.

He said PTI would request the deputy commissioner to provide foolproof security to Imran Khan’s rally on Canal Road, Ferozepur Road and in front of Data Darbar.

He recalled that PTI did not give any call for the public when Mr Khan went to appear before the Lahore High Court recently and yet people reached the court in droves.

“It is easy for Imran Khan to reconcile with the looters of national wealth and enter the corridors of power but he is clear in his mind to forgive any excesses committed against him and his party workers, but will never let the national wealth looters get off scot-free,” he asserted.

Mr Azhar claimed that the rulers had surrendered themselves to the actual powers-that-be and were begging for safe exit to escape “public accountability”.

He said there were some “tools” to assault democracy and described them as media blackout, registration of fake FIRs, stripping and torturing people in custody, etc. However, he added, the rulers are not aware of the temperature brewing against them in the streets and added that no one could now silence Imran Khan.

Referring to the Pemra ban on Imran Khan’s speeches, he said PTI would install mega-screens on the streets to ensure that PTI chief is seen and heard live. He said banning Imran Khan’s speeches on news channels was illegal because courts had already issued directives that no political leader could be blacked out.

He said all news channels could not tow the wishes of the Sharif family and claimed that the whole Pakistan listened when Mr Khan spoke his heart out for people. “Bilawal and Maryam have nothing to say and no one is inclined to listen to them,” he added.

Answering a question, Mr Azhar said Imran Khan could not appear before courts in every case because the rulers had lodged over 70 fake FIRs against him.

In reply to a question, he said any government would now be required to go to IMF but this was not the long-standing solution to the economic problem and added that extensive reforms in all state institutions were the key to drive the country out of the plethora of crises.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2023

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