Former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday said the PTI would not get “trapped” in the government’s “ill-intentioned plan” to delay elections, warning that his party would take to the streets if the Supreme Court’s order on holding polls in Punjab on May 14 was violated.
Addressing the PTI’s ‘May Day’ rally in Lahore from inside his vehicle, Imran said his party would approach the apex court for elections at the earliest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab if the government did not dissolve the “remaining assemblies” by May 14.
The PTI chief said if the government did not agree to this demand, refused to accept the apex court’s verdict on Punjab polls, defied the chief justice and his fellow judges and violated the Constitution, then “I want to say the PTI will come out on streets and we will bring the nation out with us”.
“I’m warning the thieves and their handlers that if you go against the Constitution and think you won’t accept the SC decision … then my nation will come out with me and on the country’s streets we will get the rule of law established,” he said, calling on his supporters to prepare for the “battle for Haqeeqi Azadi (true freedom)”.
Imran alleged that the government was running away from elections as it feared defeat to the PTI and wanted to remove him from the political arena.
The PTI chief said the apex court had already ordained May 14 as the date for the Punjab polls, adding that the only case where the elections would not be held was if the government agreed with his party’s stance on joint elections.
Laying down the PTI’s condition for one-day polls, Imran said that the remaining assemblies should be dissolved by May 14, adding that the party was only engaging in negotiations with the government at the chief justice’s advice.
“But if they’re making excuses for [holding] elections after [passing the] budget … if they think we will get trapped in their ill-intentioned plan and will wait for elections till September … then don’t have any misconception,” he said, adding that the PTI would take legal recourse in such a case.
In a tweet earlier today, Imran also stated that that the people would not tolerate the “mafia” undertaking actions that amounted to “running away from elections”.
“Our country in its present precarious economic situation will not be able to withstand a massive street movement,” he added.
Talks between the government and the PTI commenced last week on the advice of the Supreme Court, bringing an end to a long-time deadlock. After two rounds of talks, the parties are now expected to hold the final round of negotiations tomorrow (Tuesday).
However, chances that the dialogue will yield positive results are starting to look “very slim” after Imran demanded the dissolution of the National Assembly by May 14 to pave the way for a successful outcome of talks.
The government has termed Imran’s ultimatum “impracticable” and asked him to be more flexible for the success of this dialogue between the two sides.
Efforts to reach a consensus come against the backdrop of an impasse on elections, with the PTI seeking early polls — particularly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where assemblies were dissolved in January — and the government maintaining that elections across the country be held on the same day in October.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court — while hearing a PTI petition — had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold general elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14. However, the government had rejected the apex court’s orders.
After repeated back and forth last week, the Supreme Court on April 20 to the country’s main political parties, giving them time till April 26 to develop a consensus on the date for elections to the provincial and national assemblies, so they could be held simultaneously across the country.
However, on April 26, Shehbaz reiterated that simultaneous elections will take place in October or November after the current National Assembly completed its term on August 13, whereas parliament will have the final say regarding the initiation of talks with the opposition.
The government wanted to talk to the PTI, he said, adding that there was an overwhelming opinion that the doors of dialogue should not be closed, but its format was yet to be decided. “The decision [regarding talks] has to be taken by parliament, not you or me,” he added.
Subsequently, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani formed a committee with four members each from both the ruling coalition and the opposition for dialogue.