Imran Khan said on Friday he will remain “silent” as he does not want to “harm the country and its institutions”, a day after the ISI chief said the former prime minister made a “lucrative offer” to Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in exchange for supporting his government during the political turmoil in March this year.
Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf chief addressed his party supporters at the famous Liberty Chowk in Lahore after he launched his protest march to Islamabad and demanded snap elections. in Pakistan and not in London or Washington.
“My sole aim is to liberate my nation and make Pakistan a free country,” Khan said, standing on a container.
Khan dismissed the allegations made by ISI chief Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum in an unprecedented press conference on Thursday, saying it was one-sided and that he only “talked about Iman Khan” and never spoke a word to the “thieves” in the government. .
“DG ISI, listen carefully, the things I know, I am silent for my institutions and the country. I don’t want to damage my country,” the PTI chief said as the crowd cheered.
“Our criticism is for constructive purposes and for your improvement. I can say more, but won’t say it because it will hurt the institution,” he said.
Lieutenant General Anjum said on Thursday that Army Chief General Bajwa had received a “lucrative offer” from the then government amid political turmoil in March. General Bajwa will retire next month after a three-year extension.
The spy chief’s unprecedented press conference came as the country grappled with differing versions of the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya and indirect charges against the armed forces. Sharif was shot dead Sunday night at a police checkpoint an hour away from Nairobi, sparking a storm in the country.
Kenyan police later said it was a case of “identity swapping” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.
Speaking to his supporters, Khan said that unlike Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, he was “not a runaway who would either sit here silently or criticize the military in London”.
“I will not leave this country. I will live and die in this country,” the PTI chief added.
“If the handlers and attendants of the thieves of this imported government think that they (government) should be accepted by us, then listen, this nation will make all sacrifices, but will never accept these thieves,” he said.
Khan also promised that the march would be peaceful. “Our march will be according to the law, we will not break any rule. We will not enter the (high security) Red Zone and will only go to the areas designated by the Supreme Court for protests,” he said.
He also claimed that the Supreme Court failed to protect the constitutional right of its supporters during the May 25 protest, but hoped that “this time our rights will be protected”.
Khan, 70, plans to arrive in Islamabad on Nov. 4 and has requested formal government approval to allow his party to hold a protest rally. His party has announced the protest as a ‘Haqiqi Azadi march’ or a protest for the country’s actual freedom.
It’s not clear whether he would go back after the rally or make it a sit-in to the pattern of his protest in 2014, when a 126-day sit-in was staged by his followers outside the parliament building.
The government rejected the march and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the nation had refused to submit to a “foreign-funded” instigator and rejected the “bloody march”.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said at a press conference flanked by officials from the Federal Research Office in Islamabad that Khan tried to “threaten” the government and institutions to “get an election date” but failed in this regard.
The minister said that after all the PTI chief’s tactics had failed, he has now resorted to holding a long march.
“He made many speeches and used the word ‘neutral’. But when all this failed, he had no choice but to try something else,” Sanaullah said.
He warned that “severe measures will be taken if they try to break the law and create a situation of law and order in the capital.” Sanaullah added that if PTI kept to its commitment to stay within the places allowed by the Supreme Court, no one would stop them from exercising their democratic right.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman has claimed Khan considers herself “above the law and the constitution” for accusing the PTI chief of telling people lies.
Rehman said Imran was a “fascist” who considered himself the “king”. “This is why he leads people to violence,” she added.
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar previously told media in Lahore that the protest would be peaceful. He said the party decided to dedicate the march to the murdered journalist Sharif.
The country grappled with varying versions of the murder of journalist Sharif in Kenya and indirect allegations against the armed forces.
Former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI’s long march had only one agenda: new elections.
The PTI leader told Dawn News that the people of Pakistan wanted to hold new elections. “Hundreds and thousands of people have come out. This is our fight for real freedom,” he said.
He told the incumbent government’s “managers” that they were facing a “flood of people” that no one could withstand.
“Their supervisors, listen carefully. This is a stream of people and no one can stand it,” he said addressing the protesters as his march reached Ichhra in Lahore.
During a brief pit stop at Ichhra in Lahore, Khan delivered another fiery speech, this time targeting the government.
“They steal money, go abroad, come back after receiving an NRO and then return [to power] again,” Khan said from his container as Shah Mahmood Qureshi stood behind him.
“What do they think of us? That we are bher bakriyan (fools)? Those who stole billions from our country and live in palaces in London will be made prime minister,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has ordered television channels not to broadcast live programs and other content, especially when covering PTI leaders’ speeches and the long march.
De Pemra said while monitoring Friday’s broadcast, it was observed during a speech “statements against state institutions were broadcast live” in violation of the code of conduct and court orders.
It ordered television channels to refrain from “broadcasting content that” [is] amount to defaming/defamation of state institutions (intentionally or unintentionally) and to sensitize their editors, directors (new and programming), agencies and field reporters to comply with these guidelines.
Legal action, leading to suspension and revocation of permits, would be initiated in case of non-compliance, Pemra warned.
Khan demands snap elections and threatens a protest march to Islamabad to back his demands if the government does not give an election date. The National Assembly term ends in August 2023 and new elections are due within 60 days.
Khan, who was ousted from power in April after losing a vote of no confidence in his leadership, has spoken of a “letter of threat” from the US, alleging it was part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him for being unacceptable for an independent foreign policy. The US flatly rejected the allegations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)