PESHAWAR: After holding public rallies, former prime minister and Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan Sunday announced a long march towards Islamabad on Wednesday, May 25, and asked the party workers and other members of the society to reach the capital city for achieving 'real freedom' for the country.
He demanded dissolution of the National Assembly and announcement of the date for fresh 'fair and free' elections in the country. The PTI chief was speaking at a press conference here at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat in Peshawar after chairing the party’s core committee meeting that agreed on the long march on Islamabad.
Not a single journalist from print and electronic media was invited to the press conference, and only one private television and its DSNG was given access to the event. The digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) vehicles of all other television channels and their cameras were barred from attending the event and rather asked to park the vehicles on the main road and share with the organisers the parameters to cover the press conference.
Imran Khan arrived in Peshawar on Saturday and there were speculations that besides meeting his party people, he had met some important people, but two PTI leaders close to him denied these reports. "I appeal to the whole nation to come to Islamabad on May 25. I will meet you there on the Srinagar Highway,” Imran Khan told his party workers.
He asked them to arrive in Islamabad by 3pm on May 25 and even advised them to make prior arrangements as, he believed, the government was likely to suspend the internet services two days ahead of the long march and close gas stations to stop them from reaching Islamabad.
“This is not politics, this is jihad and I am again saying this that this is jihad and that’s why I invite people from all walks of life to come and support me. I have informed my team not to get worried about jails and be ready to sacrifice our lives,” the former prime minister said.
Since his major focus was on dissolving the National Assembly and holding fresh elections, Imran Khan said the long march would convert into a sit-in if his demands were not met. “No matter how long we have to stay in Islamabad, we will never accept these thieves to rule us. We have two major demands, dissolution of the assembly and holding of free and fair elections,” he insisted.
Imran Khan asked the armed forces to stick to their stance of being neutral in the existing situation. "I tell my army that you stated earlier that you are neutral, so now stay neutral,” he told the military leadership.
The PTI chairman, however, said he would invite everyone, including families of civil servants, army officials and ex-servicemen to his May 25 long march. He said his government was removed under a well-planned conspiracy to impose an “imported government” on the people of Pakistan.
“Let the people decide and if they voted for the opposition parties in the elections, I will accept it. But we will not allow any foreign country to impose them on us,” the PTI leader said. Imran Khan said he and his party workers had always remained peaceful in his 26 years of politics and asked the bureaucracy and the police not to create hurdles in their way to reach Islamabad. “Let me remind our bureaucracy, if you took any illegal action against our peaceful protest, remember it will be considered illegal and we would take action against you. Second, the police which are our police, and it’s our military, I tell them that we are not agitating against them. We will be peacefully protesting against the government, which is our right,” the PTI chairman explained.
Since there was no journalist at the press conference, therefore, there was no question answer-session. The former prime minister was critical of the present coalition government, saying it had made tall claims of good governance but was exposed in the first few weeks proving that they were not capable of running the country.
Imran Khan said the economic situation was deteriorating day by day and the rupee had lost more value against the US dollar, which led to inflation in the country.
He accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government of having no proper plan for ridding the country of the current economic crisis. “They can’t take decisions and wanted to convene the National Security Committee meeting to own their decisions. Their plan is to put the blame of inflation on the military,” he said.
The former minister defended his government and claimed Pakistan was growing faster than its neighbours in the Sub-continent. He said there were no corruption cases against him and his cabinet members.
“The country had gone bankrupt when I took the charge. Pakistan’s current account deficit was $20 billion. We worked hard and pulled the country out of the crisis when all of a sudden they hatched this conspiracy and removed a democratic government,” Imran Khan complained. He again narrated the story of how an under-secretary of a country asked Pakistan’s ambassador to remove their prime minister or face the repercussions.
Separately, PTI Chairman Imran Khan Sunday took to his Twitter account to write after his news conference that he would lead the march on Islamabad from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on May 25.
The former premier left the question unanswered during his news conference in Peshawar earlier in the day, following the PTI’s core committee meeting in the KP provincial capital. The PTI is in the government in the province for second consecutive term.
Imran tweeted, “I want our entire nation to come to Islamabad, on Srinagar Highway for the Haqiqi Azadi March on 25th May, where I will meet you at 3pm. I will be leading the march from KP Insha-Allah”.
In another tweet, the PTI chairman condemned what he called the political victimisation of a private television channel anchorperson. He wrote, “I strongly condemn the political victimisation of journalists Arshad Sharif, Sami Ibrahim, Imran Riaz Khan through fake FIRs by the imported government brought in through US regime change conspiracy. This is absolutely unacceptable”.
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