Imran blasts PM Shehbaz, FM Bilawal for foreign trips amid current crises

Published May 6, 2023
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a rally from inside his vehicle in Lahore on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a rally from inside his vehicle in Lahore on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday strongly criticised Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for their foreign trips amid the country’s current “crises”.

PM Shehbaz is currently in the UK for the coronation of King Charles III while FM Bilawal visited India on Thursday to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Council of Foreign Ministers.

Imran took aim at the two while addressing a PTI rally from inside his vehicle in Lahore held to show support and solidarity with the Supreme Court, Constitution and Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial.

“Pakistan is being humiliated in the world. How the Indian foreign minister’s behaviour was when Bilawal went to India is a basis for shame for all of us. We ask the question, Bilawal you are touring the entire world but first tell that before going do you ask anyone that you’re spending the country’s money on a trip so what will be the benefit or loss from it?”

Imran questioned what benefit was gained from the trip to India with the kind of language that the Indian foreign minister used.

India’s Minister for External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in his remarks at the SCO meet, had said terrorism in all its forms, including cross-border terrorism, must be stopped, usually a reference to Pakistan.

“We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism.” Later, he had alleged that Pakistan backed terrorists in Kashmir and Bilawal’s position was “found out and called out”.

Not holding back his words for the latter, Imran pointedly remarked against Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s manners. “Don’t you have any culture or etiquette that a guest comes to your country — either don’t invite them but to invite and then humiliate them like this reflects [poorly] on India. This arrogance of yours I’m seeing, remember it is God’s law that the powerful do not always remain so and the weak do not always remain so as well.”

Turning to the prime minister, Imran asked him what he was doing in the UK.

“Do you have the time for that? Don’t you know that two days back six soldiers were martyred and seven teachers in Parachinar were shot? Inflation is at historic [levels]. How could you leave the country and go there (UK) in such conditions?”

PM Shehbaz earlier today deplored how the PTI tried to make Pakistan’s participation in the SCO meeting controversial, terming it as “deeply troubling”.

“It shouldn’t be surprising though as Imran Niazi has had no qualms about imperilling the country’s vital foreign policy interests in the past too,” the premier said. “This is what they did in power.”

He added that the conduct of interstate relations for the PTI was merely “a plaything”.

Meanwhile, Imran criticised the state of the country, saying that inflation was three times higher than the time the PTI was removed from power and people’s purchasing power was diminished.

He said Pakistan would rise up and the PTI would establish the rule of law and make a great country, but, elections were needed before that.

Imran said the time had come for the nation to venture forth, saying that he was taking to the streets too despite the threat to his life. The PTI chief said a senior military officer, who he has referred to as “Dirty Harry” on multiple occasions before, would be responsible if anything happened to him.

He added that he would be holding protest rallies from next week till May 14, saying that he would not rest until elections were held.

The former premier thanked the people for coming out and attending the rally in support of the Supreme Court, Constitution and chief justice.

Rallies held in support of judiciary

The PTI held protests today across different cities in a show of support and solidarity with the Supreme Court, Constitution and Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial amid the stand-off between the superior judiciary and the government.

Imran had announced today’s rallies after talks with the government on elections remained inconclusive. Imran issued a renewed appeal today calling on people to venture forth from 5:30pm to 6:30pm to show their solidarity with the Constitution and the chief justice.

Setting out for the rally in Lahore from his Zaman Park residence, Imran called on the people to come out to support the Constitution, Supreme Court and chief justice at 5:30pm for one hour.

“If the Constitution comes to an end and it will if they (the government) don’t follow the Supreme Court order — which the government has already said it won’t follow — then it means the Constitution has come to an end. When that happens, then it means a country’s future has come to an end since the law has ended and the law of the jungle has arrived which means no future for the country or your children,” he said.

The PTI’s Twitter account shared footage of Imran’s vehicle leading the rally in Lahore.

The PTI also shared footage of the Rawalpindi rally showing large numbers of party supporters on the streets.

The PTI said rallies were held in Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad, Mardan and other cities as well.

It also alleged that its workers and supporters were mistreated by the Islamabad police.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said the Islamabad police had established “new traditions” of brutal treatment of political workers.

PTI leader Shireen Mazari also strongly condemned the alleged treatment meted out to female party supporters.

A day ago, Imran had made an impassioned appeal to the whole nation to come out of their homes on Saturday (today) to give a message to the ruling coalition, “its handlers” and state institutions that no one will tolerate violation of the Constitution and defiance of the Supreme Court’s order regarding holding of elections in Punjab on May 14.

He had announced that the PTI would hold four rallies in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Peshawar on Saturday evening simultaneously to express solidarity with the Constitution, Supreme Court and chief justice of Pakistan.

Stating that he would himself lead the rally in Lahore (from Zaman Park to Lakshmi Chowk), Imran had urged people across the country to come out of their homes at 5:30pm on Saturday and gather at designated places to tell the “rulers and their handlers” that they would not be allowed to “flout the Constitution and usurp citizens’ fundamental rights”.

Punjab polls deadlock

A day ago, CJP Bandial said the Supreme Court would not “sit idle” on its order on holding elections in Punjab on May 14 if the talks between the government and the PTI failed. He had also said an “appropriate” order would be issued.

He passed these remarks as the top court resumed hearing a petition pertaining to one-day elections following three-day negotiations between the federal coalition and the opposition to agree on a specific date for nationwide polls.

After the negotiations came to an end on Tuesday, the PTI submitted a report to the court stating that no resolution was reached and requested that the court enforce its April 4 order regarding elections in Punjab.

In the last hearing on April 27, the three-member Supreme Court bench comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — also made it clear to the negotiating parties that its April 4 order on Punjab Assembly elections had remained unchanged.

Last 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 afforded a temporary respite 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, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif 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 had 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 had formed a committee with four members each from both the ruling coalition and the opposition for dialogue.

Dar, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, Azam Nazeer Tarar and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq along with PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar represented the government in the negotiations. Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Kishwar Zehra and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s Tariq Bashir Cheema were also included in the government’s negotiating team.

Meanwhile, the opposition delegation consisted of the party’s Vice Chairman Qureshi, Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, and Senator Ali Zafar.

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