Pakistan politics: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday lambasted his political opponents and blamed them for conspiring for a clash between his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the country’s “powerful” Army.
Khan stated that his goal was to achieve “Haqeeqi Azadi” (true freedom) through the march, which in his words was feasible if free and fair elections were held right away. He also stated that he was not opposed to the country’s establishment.
At the beginning of the fifth day of his protest march, Khan spoke to his supporters in Gujranwala and continued his customary vicious criticism of his political rivals – former President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“They are conspiring for a clash between the PTI, which is the biggest political party of the country, and the military. Nawaz Sharif, I challenge you, when you come back, I will beat you in your own constituency,” Khan said.
He also warned Sharif, saying, “we will take you to Adiala jail from the airport once you return back to the country.”
Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a former President, was also singled out by Khan, who advised him to “be ready” for his visit to Sindh, the ancestral home of the Bhutto-Zardari dynasty. “Zardari listen carefully, I am coming to Sindh,” he added.
Nawaz Sharif mocks Imran Khan’s long march
Khan’s participation in the long march has been mocked by Sharif, who claimed that the PTI could only muster 2,000 people despite claiming to amass one million demonstrators.
“The reason for the indifference of the people is the evil lies,” Sharif tweeted on Monday night.
He alleged that Khan had consistently lied so much that the spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence chief was “forced to break his silence and tell the truth to the nation”.
Sharif said he had informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to not listen to any of Kha’s demands, no matter how many people he brought.
ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum said on Thursday that Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was given a “lucrative offer” in March by the then government led by Khan amidst the political turmoil.
Khan admitted that he offered an extension in the tenure of the Army chief but said he will remain “silent” as he does not want to “damage” the country and its institutions.
Khan, who came to power in 2018 with promises to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’, apparently lost the support of the powerful Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI chief last year.
Finally, Khan agreed but it soured his ties with the army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 75 years of existence and has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.
Separately, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the protesters would spend the entire day in Gujranwala.
He said the decision to slow down the trek to Islamabad was made to prevent accidents with “thousands of people walking alongside the caravan”.
Chaudhry also announced that the schedule of the march has been changed and it would not be able to reach Islamabad even by Sunday.
The original plan was to reach the capital on Friday. According to the new plan, the march would reach Jhelum by Sunday.
He also criticised the government for increased security measures in the national capital and claimed it had deployed at least 30,000 security personnel and released a large sum of funds to deal with the party’s march.
Iman Khan disqualified from membership of the current National Assembly
Khan was earlier this month disqualified from membership of the current National Assembly by a five-member panel of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) headed by its chief Sikandar Sultan Raja.
He has been demanding early elections and he is leading the long march towards Islamabad to force his demands. The term of the National Assembly will end in August 2023 and fresh elections should be held within 60 days.
Khan, who was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, has talked about a ‘threat letter’ from the US and claimed that it was part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him as he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy. The US has bluntly rejected the allegations.
(With inputs from PTI)