- Immediate general election demand reiterated
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Monday gave few more days to the government to announce general elections, otherwise, he warned that he would give the call for a long march this month.
“I would like to tell this to whoever in Pakistan can do [any work] on this, and also to the political parties that you don’t have enough time now. We will not wait beyond October. We have decided [on the long march] and our preparation is almost complete, and I will announce this [march] anytime in the coming few days,” the PTI chairman said in a press conference after chairing a meeting of the PTI’s senior leadership.
Later, the ruling coalition, through a joint statement, rejected Imran Khan’s early election demand.
Khan, who won from six constituencies in Sunday’s by-election, also ruled out any possibility of holding talks with the government, saying: “dialogue cannot be held with “thieves and criminals”.”
He maintained that the leaders in the incumbent government are “not democrats but they are “criminals””. “In democracies, the politicians do not seek “NROs”. But their [rulers] ultimate goal is getting NROs. It is very difficult to hold dialogue with them,” he said, adding that one can hold dialogue with the Baloch separatists and Sindhis, but not with the “thieves”.
At the same time, he also admitted the “back channel” dialogue which he said was stalled at the moment allegedly due to Nawaz Sharif, who he claimed was seeking to buy more time with a view to “minimise the PTI’s wave”.
“What can I say about the dialogue, it is taking place, but it’s also stalled at the moment. The back channel dialogue that’s taking place, has no clarity at the moment. And I know why there is no clarity, it is because Nawaz Sharif is scared of going into the polls,” he claimed.
“Unless he [Nawaz Sharif] decides, elections will not be held, as he feared that he would lose the polls if held at this time. So, he wants to buy more time even at the cost of the country,” he maintained.
He said that the only solution to the current challenges and the economic mess is holding of free and fair elections in the country, adding that every economic indicator is showing negative trends while the industry is closed and the remittances are declining.
“They [rulers] cannot control this, but unfortunately, they are scared of going in the elections. When I give the call [for a long march], you will see where the people stand…they can’t imagine how many people will come out on the streets. And no one can give any guarantee as to what repercussion will it have when people in a massive number take to the streets,” he said, adding that his protest will be peaceful and within the constitutional limits.
Responding to a question about the appointment of the next chief of army staff (COAS), Imran Khan stated that the current rulers, including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, have no authority to appoint the next army chief. “How the thieves can do this? The appointment of the next army chief should be on merit. He [the army chief] should neither be a man of Imran Khan nor of anybody else,” he said. He further alleged that neither Nawaz Sharif all of whose assets are abroad and who gave anti-army statements in the past can appoint the army chief, nor Asif Ali Zardari, who is known to be “10 percent”, can do this.
He alleged the PML-N and the PPP leadership wanted to make important appointments of their own desire so that they can get “NROs” in their corruption cases.
He also maintained that it makes no difference to him whoever is the army chief, adding that he had not made any appointments against merit during his three and a half years in the office of the prime minister.
The PTI chairman, while talking about the results of by-elections, said that it was a verdict against those who have kept their stolen wealth abroad and who do not care about the interest of Pakistan, its institutions, and the people.
“The nation has given a referendum and rejected them. Therefore, I want to tell the institutions that as long as they stay in power, the country will continue to suffer,” he maintained.
He also responded to the criticism of him allegedly for isolating Pakistan during his tenure and recalled his visit to the US and his meeting with then US President Donald Trump. “When I went to the US, the way Donald Trump welcomed us, is in the public domain, and you can also verify it from [COAS] General Bajwa, it was unprecedented,” he maintained.
Referring to the recent remarks by US President Joe Biden about Pakistan’s nuclear assets, Imran Khan grilled Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for their “failed” diplomacy and “begging” the US.
“So, what did you gain from this diplomacy? President Biden gave a dangerous statement by saying that Pakistan is a dangerous country. This is an old propaganda and campaign, and our enemy country is behind this,” he added.
He said that first, the government should accept the failure of its diplomacy. Second, he added that the way they are leading the country towards default, as evident from the policies and statement of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, “God forbid, if we default, we will pay a very heavy price,” he said while referring to Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
The PTI chairman said that he and his former finance minister Shaukat Tarin had conveyed the message to the Establishment that the next government would not be able to handle the economy.
Referring to the arrest and alleged torture of PTI Senator Azam Swati during custody, he alleged that Swati was “stripped naked” in custody and tortured in a way which was also meted out to Shahbaz Gill. “Being a Pakistani I am ashamed to hear about such a humiliating treatment of our people this way…he [Swati] is 75-year-old senator and he was arrested merely over a tweet,” he added.
He alleged that Swati was beaten in front of his grandchildren and then was taken to the police station where his custody was given to the agencies, “who then subjected him to more torture.”
He said that the incident brought disrepute to Pakistan, and created an impression as if “the army is out of control and could do anything.”
He said that the party has decided to call special sessions of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on this issue. Furthermore, he said that the PTI senators will file a petition with the Supreme Court, while the party will approach international human rights bodies such as the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, the UN Special rapporteur, the EU and International Parliamentary Union to register the party’s concern about the alleged torture of its leaders.
Without naming anyone, the PTI chairman alleged that the incidents of torture have increased following the appointment of “a man posted in Islamabad”. “Whoever is responsible, I know “the man” who is behind all of this. The same man is violating the Constitution, defaming the country and sowing the seeds of hatred among the public for institutions,” he alleged. He accused the unidentified man of trampling the law and the Constitution in an attempt to “please the army chief”, adding that an immediate action should be taken against him.
To another query, he said that the PTI can win elections without the support of the “umpires”. He also criticised Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja. “I have not seen a more dishonest man than Sikandar Sultan Raja in this country. He is the PML-N’s man inside the election commission,” he alleged, adding that this election was held by the ECP in cahoots with the PML-N-led government.
He further alleged that the CEC did not allow electronic voting machines (EVM), adding that if there were EVMs, they could not rig the elections. He further stated that they have moved the Supreme Judicial Commission against the CEC and the case was being heard.
He also demanded re-election in Karachi’s NA-237 constituency, claiming that the PPP won the seat through “rigging”.
Asked if he is in favour of Nawaz Sharif’s return to contest the polls, he said Nawaz Sharif can only contest when his “theft” is pardoned. “If you want to allow a criminal to contest the elections, though, I want him to come and confront me [then it is fine]. But he is such a “coward” person and he would never play unless with his own umpire,” he maintained.
Khan also clarified that he does not want confrontation with the institutions.
However, he warned that if anything happened as a result of his long march, these “thieves” will be responsible. He said that all his protests in the past were peaceful and within the parameters of the Constitution.
The ruling coalition categorically rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s demand for an early election and made it clear that the decision to hold the polls rests with the government’s coalition partners, and the appointment of the next army chief with the prime minister as per the law.
In a joint statement, the coalition partners also made it clear that “no group will be allowed to impose a decision on the basis of force and those who take the law into their own hands will be dealt with according to the Constitution and the law.”
“The coalition parties of the government have categorically rejected the demand of the PTI chairman to hold the early elections. When the elections are to be held in the country, it will be decided by the coalition parties of the government,” added the statement.
The coalition partners also condemned the allegations against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif.
Responding further to the PTI chairman’s demand about the appointment of the next army chief, the coalition partners stated that the prime minister of Pakistan will decide on the appointment of the army chief as per the law. “The appointment will not be made by dictation from the ‘foreign-funded fitna [trouble-maker]’, through intimidation and threats,” the coalition partners further made it clear.
According to the statement, the aim of targeting the army chief, leadership of sensitive institutions, officers, the chief election commissioner, and others is ‘blackmail’. “It’s definitely not a political act but a part of a conspiracy which will not be allowed to succeed. It is clear from the constitution and law that appointment of the army chief and other positions is the constitutional authority of the prime minister,” it added.
Through the statement, the coalition partners alleged that a “person” deprived of power is targeting national institutions under a “deliberate agenda”. “Actions like the ‘dirty’ campaign against the martyrs of Pakistan Army, statements and encouragement of rebellion in the army are tantamount to anti-nationalism, which will be dealt with according to the Constitution and law,” it maintained.
The coalition partners also made it clear that the Constitution, democracy and system will not be allowed to be enslaved on the basis of “bullying and intimidation”. The statement also clarified that bringing the economy back on track and the rehabilitation of the flood victims is the first national priority at this time, “on which there will be no compromise”.
“The government, institutions and people agree that political instability will not be allowed to derail the economy and access to resources for flood victims will not be affected in any way,” it added.
The statement said that after the by-elections held on October 16, 2022, the number of seats in the National Assembly of the coalition government has increased from 174 to 176, while the PTI has lost eight seats in the National Assembly due to the “arrogance of ‘fitna’”.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022