LAHORE, Nov 12: Looking defiant and all set to mobilise students on the streets on Wednesday (tomorrow) against Gen Musharraf’s emergency rule, Pakistan Tereek-i-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan lashes out at the ‘Washington plan’ of installing its ‘dream team of moderates’.
Dismissing the election formula for being devised and dictated by the US administration, Mr Khan proclaims the students’ march will be the most momentous since the independence movement.
“It is going to be the most important movement since the movement for the independence of this country. Our theme is the restoration of the pre-emergency judiciary. Our party has been carefully planning this movement and we feel now the time is right to come out on to the streets to protest against the Provisional Constitutional Order, and reject the holding of elections under emergency. How can elections be held when the country has been put under emergency, when there’s suspension of fundamental rights, no recourse to justice and rampant rule of the jungle?” blitzes Mr Khan.
Talking to Dawn while in hiding, the PTI chairman looks composed at the prospect of being put behind bars and the possibility of being tried under the amended Army Act. “I don’t care about being arrested or tried under the Army or any other act. Sacrifices need to be made. I didn’t go underground to evade arrest but to ensure mobilization of the youth in case I am arrested. Different tiers of the PTI are organized now to keep up the momentum even if I am arrested,” says Mr Khan.
Dispelling impression of non-participation by the PTI in the forthcoming general elections, Mr Khan refuses to respond in the affirmative or negative. His party’s strategy is to take one step at a time, starting from the student movement as a buildup base against Musharraf’s regime, forcing him to restore the judiciary.
In case the emergency is not lifted Mr Khan’s warning of an unprecedented street power to oust Mushrraf portends difficult times for the ruling government. “There is no decision yet on whether we’ll contest elections or not. I had a discussion with Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Nawaz Sharif and all three of us demand that the European Union and United States should put pressure on Musharraf to restore the judiciary because there can be no fair and free elections under any setup worked out in a way where the genuine opposition is either behind bars or in hiding. The only two parties given a free hand to hold rallies and address people are the PML-Q and Benazir’s PPP. Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Benazir Bhutto are the only two politicians enjoying complete immunity from the imposition of emergency,” accuses Mr Khan.
Accusing the US government of complicity with General Musharraf, Mr Khan wanted to know how the US citizens would react if a general sent their judiciary packing, targeting and accusing the Chief Justice of Pakistan of corruption at a press conference held primarily for the foreign media. “His press conference was a shame. How can a general justify accusing the Chief Justice of trumped up, petty crimes when his own government is the most corrupt this country has ever seen. He talks of being neutral when he publicly supports the PML-Q. Does that constitute impartiality? It is time for Benazir Bhutto to be exposed and for the people to differentiate between genuine and fake opposition,” continues Mr Khan.
And while Mr Khan continues his ‘Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary’, Ms Bhutto’s convoy goes from one part of the city to another amidst cheerful supporters and tight government security. “It is very important how Benazir will react to the general elections. It is assumed by the US that she is the next prime minister, but the local and international media has seen through this façade constructed by the Bush administration. It is not a foregone conclusion that America’s dream team is going to be headed by Musharraf and Benazir,” warns Mr Imran Khan.
Before heading for the car which would carry him to another unknown place, Mr Khan’s expression changed from belligerence to anguish. “The most awful thing about all this is that the Bush administration is prepared to sacrifice 160 million Pakistanis to back one man who is willing to turn his own army against civilians for the so-called ‘war on terror’. It is plain callousness on the Bush administration’s part to play with the lives of Pakistanis to accomplish a convoluted ideology. But the saddest part of it all is that Musharraf and Benazir are assisting it in ruining the future of this country.”