Former prime minister and Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday demanded immediate elections in the country and asked the people to get ready for his call to gathering in Islamabad in the next stage of the “real freedom” movement.
Addressing a mammoth public gathering at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan, Imran underlined that the PTI was a democratic party and it strongly believed in democracy and added that it would never accept any “imported rule” in the country.
“We don’t want any confrontation but the mistake of imposing the ‘imported government’ can only be rectified by holding immediate elections in the country,” the former prime minister, who was removed through a no-confidence vote on April 10, told the rally.
Imran asked the people of Pakistan to get ready for his call to come to Islamabad in the next phase of his movement. He asked the people to pledge that they would continue their peaceful struggle for “real democracy and independence” in Pakistan till the announcement of fresh elections.
He also thanked the people of Lahore for turning out in a large number. “Today I will give you a future course of action that we will not accept slavery and this imported government.”
“Come what may, I will not accept this government of looters and slaves,” he added.
The deposed prime minister went on to say that his PTI government was dislodged at a time when the economy was on the right track with remittances and tax collection hit the “historic high”.
“Poverty level in the country was recorded at the lowest level in the entire region despite the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The former premier said those who committed mistake have now only one way to rectify it by calling fresh elections at the earliest. “This is my country and I don’t want any kind of clashes… the protests should remain peaceful.”
“Those who think that this movement will weaken… no this will get stronger.”
Challenging the current rulers, the PTI chief said that the struggle for the real independence had just started and those who believed that the movement would fade away with the passage of time should wake up from their slumber.
“I have asked the entire leadership of the party to spread across the country and prepare the nation for the next stage of the freedom struggle. Everyone, should know that the PTI has just started. Unlike my opponents, who have properties and wealth abroad, I will live and die in Pakistan,” he said.
Imran paid rich tributes to the armed forces, who paid huge sacrifices for one wrong decision of former military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf.
The former prime minister underscored that if Pakistan did not have a professional army, the enemies would have split the country in three parts. He also paid tributes to the police and other law-enforcement agencies.
Speaking about the “foreign conspiracy of regime change” in Pakistan, Imran said that the United States had ousted an elected government in Pakistan with the help of “three stooges”.
“The conspiracy against my government was hatched when the country’s economy was performing well. The country had the highest ever export of $32 billion, the highest ever tax collection of over Rs6 trillion and the lowest unemployment in the region,” Imran said.
“As a result of this foreign conspiracy criminals have been imposed on the country. You will not find any example in the entire world that those who are on bail become the prime minister, chief minister and ministers,” he lamented.
Imran also questioned the Supreme Court, repeating his earlier statement that “what it was doing when loyalties of lawmakers were being changed” in the country. “Was it not a violation of the Constitution,” he asked.
The PTI chief rejected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s proposal for constituting a commission for probing the “diplomatic memo”.
“The Sharifs have always presented fake documents and evidences in courts and in the assembly. The PTI will only accept an open hearing on diplomatic memo by the Supreme Court and in the presence of the media so the public know how an elected government was toppled in Pakistan,” he said.
He said that his only mistake was to think about the nation. “I decided to opt for an independent foreign policy, which was in favour of the nation. I visited Russia to get oil and wheat on 30% discounted rate to reduce inflation in Pakistan,” he continued.
“But the United States was not happy to see Pakistan’s relations flourishing with China and Russia because it was used to see people in power saying it ‘yes’… Now the nation has decided to break the chains of slavery,” he said.
Imran also dilated on allegations of buying Toshakhana gifts at discounted rates. In the past, he continued, rulers used to pay 15% of the gift value to keep the present, on the contrary, Imran added, he paid 50% of the gift price.
“It is all documented and as per law. The proceeds of these gifts were used to build road near Bani Gala residence, which are used by common citizens too I challenge all the former premiers that I got minimum expenditures for the national exchequer for myself,” he added.
Commenting on the foreign funding case, he said the PTI was the only political party in Pakistan, which had a proper system of getting donations from its supporters. “We have given all proofs of foreign funding to the party and ready to provide them again. I guarantee that the PTI will come clean.”
Khan asked rally participants not to vote for people who switched their loyalties in next election. “No matter if you vote for the PTI or not but you should permanently stop voting for the persons who sold their integrity for a few million rupees,” he stressed.
Addressing the gathering, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) central leader and former federal minister Moonis Elahi, said his party would support Imran. “Imran Khan Sahib! You step forward, insha’Allah, we are with you,” Elahi roared to a cheering crowd.
“I sincerely thank Imran Khan for trusting the people of Gujrat and the Pakistan Muslim League,” he added, referring to his home district. “We have a long tradition and we have been taught to give full support to our friends.”
Moonis Elahi criticised Punjab Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz and other Sharif family members. “Nowadays a gimmick is sitting in the chair of the prime minister but he is a guest for a few days. Insha-Allah he will sent packing soon and Imran Khan will become the prime minister again,” he said.
He praised the PTI Punjab Assembly members, particularly the minister, who served under former chief minister Usman Buzdar, saying that they did a very good job and foiled a big conspiracy. “I pay tribute to all of them for the way they stood firm.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, various citizens also highlighted that they have to travel long distance on foot to Minar-e-Pakistan because of the road blocks.
A citizen, Muhammad Kaman, who was traveling towards Minar-e-Pakistan along with his family, said that the present rulers had ousted the Imran Khan government but they were still afraid of his power.
“On the government’s direction, local administration has created hurdles on pretext of traffic management, although their actual motive is to stop citizens from participating in PTI public gathering,” he maintained.
Earlier, PTI leaders, Shafqat Mahmood, Fawad Chaudhry, Aslam Iqbal, Faisal Javed and others complained about the closure of roads leading to Minar-e-Pakistan and demanded of the authorities to remove the blockades. They asked the administration not to create hurdles in their peaceful protests.
Addressing the charged crowd, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has warned that the civil war in the country will break out if anything happened to Imran Khan amid “security threats”.
“I will remain to stand by Imran Khan till the last drop of my blood,” he added.
He also accused PPP stalwart Asif Ali Zardari of involvement in the murder of her wife and former premier Benazir Bhutto.
PTI Vice-Chairman and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that a “new conspiracy” is being hatched in Islamabad to disqualify Imran Khan and ban the PTI in the foreign funding case.
“We answered all queries of the ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] and provided all documentary evidence…but will not accept the lopsided accountability,” said Qureshi while asking the supporters to take the streets to foil the so-called conspiracy.
He also lamented that the PTI-led government was not allowed to complete its five-year constitutional tenure due to “conspiracy”.
Despite “poor” performance, Qureshi said, the previous governments of PPP and PML-N completed their tenure.
A day earlier, Lahore deputy commissioner had advised Imran to address the public gathering via video link instead of physically participating in the rally citing security threats.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif earlier on Thursday also ordered foolproof security for former premier Imran, after the latter received security threats prior to his rally in Lahore.
The premier ordered Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to take immediate and effective measures regarding the security threats and directed him to personally monitor and ensure the implementation of his orders.
A huge stage has been prepared in front of Minar-e-Pakistan with huge containers. PTI leadership said that it will be the biggest ever and the most important public gathering in political history of Pakistan as it will decide the future course of this country.
Punjab PTI President Shafqat Mahmood, on Wednesday, presided over a meeting of the organising committee Minar-e-Pakistan public gathering.
The meeting reviewed all arrangements and highlighted route plan has been finalised. List of participants sitting on the stage along with senior PTI leadership has been decided.
The party had directed all leaders available in the provincial capital to reach Minar-e-Pakistan after Iftar along with rallies.