LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Saturday threatened to launch countrywide street protests if elections were not held in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) within 90 days after the dissolution of the provincial assemblies. “If there were no elections then the country would be without the Constitution.”
The former Prime Minister expressed these views while addressing the nation through a video link and talking to a group of journalists at his residence here.
Khan said Pakistan was facing a defining moment, as right now, the Constitution and the rule of law were under attack; hence, the time has come that the people should stand with the Constitution and law. He also urged lawyers to play their role to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. “The elections (in Punjab and KP) needed to be held within 90 days; if it were not held the country has no future, he added.
Talking about the importance of the rule of law, he averred that its implementation would guarantee prosperity in the country and no one has to leave Pakistan for better prospects. To reinforce his argument, he cited an example of Demark that was ranked number one in the rule of law index
He talked about the rationale behind dissolving the two provincial assemblies, saying he took the step in a bid to hold early elections and subsequently, put breaks on economic deterioration. He noted that he consulted the legal experts before dissolving the assemblies and all were of the same view that after the dissolution, the elections have to be held within 90 days otherwise it would be a violation of the Constitution.
“Right now, Pakistan was seeing unprecedented inflation and the economic situation would most likely worsen in the coming days. Only political stability could steady the economy and fresh elections would bring that vital stability in the country,” he said.
However, he said, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) have other plans to stop the election; only after crushing the PTI, they would hold elections, as they fear that it would lose the elections if they were held now. “I ask, would the economic and security situation improve in Pakistan by October and could the rulers tell me how Pakistan would benefit after delaying the elections? The fact is it suits PDM to delay the elections till the PTI was crushed and a favourable environment was created for them. Thus, the rulers have no plan to hold the elections soon,” he added.
“The PDM has decided that it would not accept the Supreme Court’s ruling if it went against them. After I had dissolved the National Assembly last year and subsequently, announced the elections, the Supreme Court restored it and we accepted the decision without raising a finger and all party leaders were instructed not to criticise the apex court,” he added.
He noted that after 90 days, the legitimacy of the interim setup would come under question and went on to castigate the caretaker Punjab government for exceeding the powers that were given to them. He said that the non-representative interim government was only focused on crushing the PTI and abusing its financial powers.
He accused the interim government in Punjab of harassing the PTI leaders and workers; “3100 party workers have been arrested for no reason”. He said that the party leaders and workers who were picked up by the police and later handed over to ‘unknown’ people told him that they were treated as if they were terrorists. “He claimed that while the PTI was being suppressed, the coalition parties were given a freehand to carry out political activities. “All efforts were being made to give a false impression that the PTI was involved in violent activities; how could we be the aggressor when we were demanding elections,” he added.
While taking a group of journalists, the former Prime Minister clarified that President Arif Alvi was not playing a role of a bridge between the PTI and the establishment.
He castigated the coalition government for turning their guns towards the superior courts, saying was it right when the Supreme Court of Pakistan restored the National Assembly after taking a suo motu notice; and now when the same court took a suo motu notice on elections, they started intimidating the apex court. “Under what law the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies could be restored (if the polls do not take place within the stipulated time),” he questioned.
Talking about former Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General (R) Qamar Javed Bajwa, he said that he was pressurized by him (Bajwa), as he wanted a friendship with India; hence, things got worse between them. “The former army chief should be held accountable by the army only,” he added.
Talking about the current political situation, Khan said that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and President Chaudhry Pervez Elahi have been given the task of reestablishing contacts with other political parties and there was no restriction on any member of the party to meet other parties and political figures.
The PTI Chairman castigated caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and CCPO Lahore Bilal Saddique Kamyana for the police raid at his residence in Zaman Park on March 18, saying they were criminals; “there was no reason for the attack on my house in his absence”. “A case has been prepared in connection with the ‘attack’ on my house and it would be filed soon,” he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023