Imran Khan cancels march to Islamabad and has a new strategy to force the polls

Imran Khan speaking at a rally in Rawalpindi.

Rawalpindi:

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday his party had decided to quit the provincial assemblies instead of marching on Islamabad to force the government led by Shehbaz Sharif to announce a snap election.

Addressing a massive rally of his Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf party here in this garrison town, home to the headquarters of the mighty army, Khan also alleged that “three criminals”, who were behind the the failed assassination attempt on him earlier this month, are waiting to target him again.

The 70-year-old leader, who appeared with a cast on his right leg, has repeatedly claimed that Prime Minister Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and the head of Iran’s counter-intelligence wing ISI, Major General Faisal Naseer, were behind the attack on him.

“We will not be part of this system. We have decided to quit all assemblies and get out of this corrupt system,” Khan said in his first in-person address to party workers after his failed assassination attempt. .

“I will consult with all chief ministers and party leaders to leave assemblies,” he said, adding that his party had decided not to travel to Islamabad to avoid destruction or chaos.

Imran Khan’s party has governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. It is also represented in the assemblies of Sind and Balochistan.

Party deputies had already resigned from the National Assembly, but the resignations of all deputies were not accepted.

Khan also announced that he would continue his protest until new elections were announced. Elections are not scheduled in Pakistan before the end of the term of the current National Assembly in August 2023.

“Haqeeqi Azadi’s movement will continue until real freedom is achieved,” he said, adding that the time would come once new elections were held.

He said today’s rally was held because “we want elections” to move the country forward. “I am here to tell them that there is no other way but elections.” Khan also said the country was headed for a default that would jeopardize its national security. He said the risk of default was over 100%, up from just 5% when his government was toppled in April.

During his nearly 80-minute address, he also spoke of the squalor in the country and accused the powerful establishment (the military) of tolerating corruption.

Khan said his government had succeeded but his only failure was that he had been unable to bring the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-corruption body, under his control to punish corrupt people.

“He (NAB) was controlled by the establishment. Instead of bringing corrupt elements to justice, the establishment was making a deal with them,” he said.

He went on to add, “Those in power don’t mind corruption… That’s why they installed the corrupt stuff.” He also spoke about the conspiratorial removal of his government and the failure of the establishment to oppose it. “If they (the establishment) didn’t commit the plot, they failed to stop it,” he said.

Khan also said the establishment could have prevented the return to power of what he called corrupt elements, but it did not.

He once again reiterated that a foreign plot had been hatched to overthrow his government and this was proven by the secret figure that was placed in front of the National Security Council meeting attended by senior military leaders.

Speaking about the attack on his convoy in Wazirabad on November 3, he said there were three attackers, including the one who was arrested and two others.

He said the second attacker shot him but missed the target when he fell and the bullet flew over his head, while the third attacker was tasked with taking out the first shooter and he fired but instead hit an innocent participant who was killed.

He also defended his performance during his reign saying he had turned the economy around despite the Covid-19 pandemic. He said a growth of 5.7% was recorded in 2021 and it was 6% in 2022, which was the highest in 17 years.

Khan said that in the seven months of the current government, the rise in prices was the highest in the country’s 50 years, while all other indicators also fell.

The former prime minister alleged that by overthrowing his government, the establishment not only destroyed the economy, but also dealt a blow to the country’s democracy, constitutionalism and morality.

Khan called on his followers to free themselves from the fear of death if they wanted to live freely.

“Fear is turning an entire nation into slaves,” he said, referring to the battle of Karbala in what is now Iraq where the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussain, was killed along with members of his family for speaking out against the tyrant of his time.

Khan, who was accompanied by a team of medics when he arrived by helicopter in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Saturday, said everyone advised him not to because of his injured leg as well as threats to his life.

He said he went ahead because he saw death up close.

“If you want to live your life, avoid the fear of death,” he said.

Khan said the nation stood at a “defining point” and “crossroads” with two paths ahead – one path was one of blessings and greatness while the other was one of humiliation and destruction. destruction.

He asked people to tell the difference between right and wrong.

Earlier, Khan traveled from Lahore by a special plane to Pakistan Air Force’s Nur Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi. He was then flown by helicopter to the adjacent University of Arid Agriculture at the venue of his speech in Rawalpindi.

The Rawalpindi administration had issued a notification that the England cricket team would soon arrive in Rawalpindi, therefore the venue is expected to be completely vacated after the rally is over.

PTI general secretary Asad Umar said Khan faced a threat and the government would be responsible if anything happened to him.

Strict security measures have been taken by the government and the police have made elaborate arrangements to ensure the safety of the participants and Khan, Deputy Inspector of Police for Operations, Sohail Chatha, told the media.

He said more than 17,000 police were deployed to provide security during the rally.

Sources said Rawalpindi Police had deployed more than 300 rooftop snipers to thwart any assassination attempts on Khan.

Rawalpindi has a history of attacks on politicians and so far two prime ministers have been killed in the garrison town, including first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951 and two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

The former cricketer-turned-politician was ousted from power in April after losing a vote of no confidence in his leadership, which he said was part of a US-led plot to target him in because of its independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan. The United States has denied the allegations.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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