- Challenges opposition to call early elections and see public-support
- Predicts opposition's next moves in address to nation
- Says disappointed by Supreme Court's verdict, but respects its decision
Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the public to come out and stage "peaceful protests" on Sunday against what he called an "imported government being installed in Pakistan", a remark that comes ahead of the no-confidence vote that the opposition believes will certainly dismiss him.
At the start of his address, the prime minister said the Supreme Court’s decision was disappointing. "But I have utmost respect for the Supreme Court and Pakistan Army.
"It was disappointing because the top court did not look at the reasons for the dismissal of the no-confidence vote. The apex court should have at least seen the letter, or conducted an in-camera briefing over the threat letter, before giving a verdict.
"Another thing that was shocking for us was that the horse-trading angle was completely neglected."
Khan said lawmakers were "openly bought and kept at Sindh House", and all this was motivated by a foreign conspiracy, as "established by the threat letter".
"I have never ceased to believe Pakistan will become a great nation one day. However, this dream faced a setback when I saw the buying and selling of our lawmakers - something that could never be imagined in a Western democracy.
"I also call on my people to take a stand against the foreign-funded conspiracy."
Talking about the "threat letter", Khan said that he could not openly disclose the message "since it would compromise Pakistan's secrets".
"But I will try to explain it for the public in plain terms without having to declassify it.
"The first part of the letter said that Imran Khan should not have visited Russia. The letter, which we received before the submission of the no-trust motion, said that if the premier loses the no-trust motion, all previous mistakes will be forgiven.
"How unfortunate it is that a foreign power is openly threatening a sovereign country’s elected leader. If all that is to happen, then why did we get independence in the first place.
"As we learnt more details, we got to know that US diplomats had been secretly meeting our MNAs, and the opposition."
The premier again accused the US of interfering in Pakistan's politics.
"Facilitators of this motion already knew about this conspiracy from day 1. The US wants me removed because they know they cannot handle me.
"Therefore, they want to bring back shameless people like Shehbaz Sharif who would do anything for them in order to safeguard their ill-gotten money stashed abroad."
Khan also praised India's foreign policy, saying that both countries earned independence together, but "they established their sovereignty in its true spirit".
"Pakistan lost 80,000 people, suffered due to terrorism for the sake of the US, but they didn't even appreciate our role in this war.
"I want to say to my people that your future, your democracy and your sovereignty is in your hands. If you don't take a stand today, the country will never be able to become independent.
"Therefore, I urge you to hold peaceful protests on Sunday night against this 'imported government' that is being forced upon us."
Khan also looked to predict the opposition's next moves. “The opposition is not going to call elections immediately because they want to come into power to 'fix the match' by appointing blue-eyed bureaucrats in key positions.
"Secondly, they want to undo the legislation on Electronic Voting Machines that gave the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis, because they fear that they will vote against them.
"They will end the accountability drive by abolishing NAB [National Accountability Bureau] … and reverse electoral reforms including overseas voting rights,” said the premier while urging opposition parties to agree to his demand of early elections.
"I want to give this message to the youth that I will never accept this foreign imported government. I will go back to the public and present my case before them," said Khan as he concluded his speech.
The country had been abuzz with speculation what the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief would announce during his address to the nation.
Khan, who peppers his speeches with cricket metaphors, had said late Thursday he would fight "till the last ball", while summoning his cabinet and PTI leaders for crisis meetings.
Later, information minister Fawad Chaudhry reiterated PTI's stance it was a "foreign conspiracy" that has motivated a no-confidence vote against the premier, saying the government has formed a commission to investigate the "threat letter" that, according to the government, is proof of the scheme.
Meanwhile, on Friday, interior minister had told reporters he had long pressed for PTI lawmakers and coalition partners to quit the assembly en-masse.
"For three months I was asking them to collectively resign ... I am saying the same, we should resign in unison," said Sheikh Rashid.
The opposition says it has more than 172 votes in the 342-seat assembly, which needs a quarter of members present for a quorum.
Saturday's vote in the National Assembly will cap a dramatic week during which Khan sidestepped an initial no-confidence vote before getting the president to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.
But the Supreme Court ruled all his actions illegal and said the National Assembly must decide his fate.
The court's judgment was broader than expected after the chief justice said earlier this week the bench would only rule on the legality of the initial no-confidence motion being blocked.
The decision was met with jubilation by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif and likely to replace Khan, said the decision "has saved Pakistan and the constitution".
"Democracy is the best revenge", tweeted Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The opposition said previously they wanted an early election but taking power gives them the opportunity to set their own agenda and end a string of probes they said Khan launched vindictively against them.
It could also pave way for a comeback by Nawaz Sharif, who has not returned from Britain since being allowed to leave jail in 2019 to seek medical treatment abroad.
He was barred by the Supreme Court from holding public office after graft revelations and sentenced to 10 years in prison by an accountability court.
There had been high hopes for Khan when he was elected in 2018 on a promise of sweeping away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism, but he struggled to maintain support with soaring inflation, a feeble rupee, and crippling debt.