• Ex-PM insists he has been ‘isolated’ at home, still fears for his life • Farrukh says all May 9 suspects must be given right to fair trial

LAHORE: PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Friday made an impassioned appeal that it was high time that all state institutions sat with his party and found a solution to put the country on the path of progress.

“I would like to appeal for talks because what is currently happening is not a solution,” Mr Khan said in a live talk streamed on YouTube.

“The country is heading towards an imminent disaster since hyperinflation is around the corner. But the incumbent rulers are least bothered as they have stashed the looted wealth abroad,” he said from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.

Separately, in an interview with France 24, Mr Khan said he had been “isolated” at his home, cut off from the senior leadership of his party, while thousands of his supporters have been arrested. “Anyone who supports PTI is either arrested or has gone underground,” he said.

Mr Khan also told the channel that he still feared for his life after two assassination attempts. “I am not at all safe,” he said.

In the video address, Mr Khan asserted that his appeal for dialogue should not be considered his weakness, adding that the physical and economic excesses being committed against the people of Pakistan was no solution. “The solution to the country’s problems rests in the state institutions functioning within their constitutional roles,” he said.

“Whenever I ask for a dialogue, the incumbent rulers think I am getting weak and they begin unleashing more excesses on PTI leaders and workers with the hope of crushing the party,” he regretted. He said no government could remove an ideology inculcated among the youth of the country.

He also warned the powers that be that they should exercise restraint as their attempt to crush the PTI could destroy the country. “No political party has ever witnessed such a barbaric action from the rulers,” he said.

Mr Khan said the country had already become a banana republic — a poor country with a weak government that depends on foreign money — because the rulers were not even respecting court orders to hold elections.

“The whole establishment, civil administration and the Election Commission of Pakistan are standing with the PDM [Pakistan Democratic Movement], but the rulers are still afraid of holding elections,” the former prime minister said.

The rulers, he said, were actually saying: “They would hold elections when Imran Khan was eliminated” from the political scene.

Describing the PTI leaders announcing defections as “forced divorces”, Mr Khan said he himself had condemned the May 9 arson attack on the Lahore corps commander’s house when he came to know about it while present in the Supreme Court the next day.

“Who will not condemn such a brazen attack on army installations?” he wondered, stressing that weakening the institution of the army was tantamount to weakening the country.

The former premier’s video address came at a time when PTI leaders were leaving the party — at gunpoint, according to Mr Khan — at pressers being held every other day.

Referring to this at the outset of his address, Mr Khan quipped: “I am not holding this media talk to leave the PTI.”

The former premier, however, struck a defiant tone, warning that his party’s popularity was only rising because of the crackdown and would still win an election whenever it was held. He said he only wanted to talk to take the country out of the current crisis.

He urged the nation and his party leaders, workers and supporters to observe patience in these critical times.

Explaining economic indicators while comparing the PDM government’s performance with his government’s during 2022 and 2023, he warned the powers that be that the nation would soon be caught by hyperinflation — a term to describe rapid, excessive and out-of-control general price rises in an economy.

Since the dollar rate in the open market has reached Rs308, Mr Khan said the salaried class would soon be compelled to come out on roads when they would not be able to bear the “upcoming hyperinflation”.

Meanwhile, the PTI central information secretary, Farrukh Habib, has said the coalition government was creating hatred among the masses while committing excesses against his party leaders, workers and supporters.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Mr Habib demanded that the government must allow all suspects an opportunity for a fair trial.

He stressed that the government should also stop giving inhumane treatment to suspects imprisoned in different jails.

Mr Habib said the PTI was a party of masses and the people were demanding elections at the earliest. He said everyone had condemned the May 9 arson attacks on state buildings and army installations.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2023

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