LAHORE: Kicking off his election campaign after a week of wrangling with the interim government of Punjab, PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced a public meeting at the Minar-i-Pakistan — the same venue where he launched his campaign for the 2013 elections with a massive show of power.
“I am facing serious threats to my life, but I still came out in the interests of this nation, not for any personal gain,” Mr Khan told participants of his rally from inside the bomb-and-bulletproof vehicle at Data Darbar Chowk on Monday, which he reached after traveling almost four hours from his Zaman Park residence.
Saying that he was waging a war on the corrupt and the looters for the sake of Pakistanis and their future generations, the PTI chief gave another call to the people of Lahore to join him at a mass public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on March 19. “Show the world how people are standing with me in his jihad for ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’,” he said.
As Imran Khan led the rally from his residence, PTI leaders, workers and supporters welcomed him by showering petals and chanting slogans along the route. The district administration had closed all roads leading to the route of the rally with containers on the pretext of security, while a heavy contingent of police had guarded the rally.
Leads election rally through Lahore, says no one puts their life on the line for ‘vested interests’
The participants were then greeted with fireworks at Data Darbar Chowk, where the PTI chief said he was not fighting the “corrupt mafia” for his own vested interests. “No one puts his life on the line for vested interests, because any benefit means nothing if life is taken away,” he said, adding that corrupt rulers would flee the country to save their loot.
The former prime minister said the incumbent rulers were using every tactic to eliminate the PTI leadership from the upcoming elections and they were crossing all limits in his character assassination.
Addressing the recent public release of the Toshakhana gift records, he said the current government had created a drama, but it was now clear “who was actually looting the Toshakhana”.
Similarly, he said, the current rulers were raising a hue and cry over foreign funding, but said things would also become crystal clear to the public when the PML-N and PPP’s foreign funding cases would be decided. “The PTI will emerge as the only party that collected donations through legal means,” he asserted.
Mr Khan also paid tribute to slain PTI worker Ali Bilal, also known as Zille Shah, who lost his life on March 8 as the caretaker Punjab government used force to block a rally called to launch the party’s campaign for the April 30 elections in the province.
“I’m sending a message on my nation’s behalf to those people [behind his death] that I and the nation will never forget this or forgive you. Until those police officials and those who tortured him are not brought to justice, [we will not rest] and will get them sentenced,” he said.
The rally eventually concluded from where it began, i.e. Mr Khan’s residence in Zaman Park, late on Monday night.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2023