Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan, during his speech at a party rally in Gujranwala on Saturday, directly addressed the establishment and warned that it will be held responsible if the country and economy were to “plummet any further” under the incumbent government.
“I am addressing the people who have the power,” he said at the Jinnah Stadium. “I want to ask the establishment … the way this government is taking this country and economy down … I know that you call yourself neutral but this nation will hold you responsible for the way the country is going down. They will hold you responsible because you could have prevented the country getting mired in this swamp but you did not do anything.
“If the economy goes down, the national security will be effected because then we will be more helpless in front of foreign powers. There is still time. Save this country from plummeting any more.”
Imran reiterated his demand for free and fair elections, warning that failure to do so would see his supporters hold peaceful streets on his call and have their demands accepted “by force”.
“If they do not hold free and fair elections, then the people are ready to take to the streets of Pakistan to hold peaceful protests … or … we will hold elections by force,” he said. “We can see they are running away from the elections because they know they will lose even badly than before.”
Towards the start of the speech, he addressed his party’s Insaf Student Federation (ISF) and the youth in general, and said he would need them both in the light of “things I am going to say ahead”.
“The thing I am preparing this nation for … I would need the youth of this nation a lot for Haqeeqi Azadi (actual freedom),” he said.
He said that following his ouster from the top office, his political opponents had anticipated a wave of celebration among the public. “But instead the public took to the streets to protest instead.”
Imran said the government tried suppressing his support among the public through the use of force and tear gas shelling , thinking that “they will be scared and are mummy-daddy and won’t be able to take pressure.”
“They still did not succeed and people still came out in every rally. I’ve been holding rallies for six months now and the nation has come out in big numbers in every one of them.”
Imran alleged that in the Punjab by-polls as well, the system was rigged against him to fail through the help of a “dishonest” chief election commissioner and Mr X. “They lost despite all this and so now their wish is to disqualify Imran Khan.”
He claimed that his political opponents want him “to not play at all” and are attempting to have him disqualified through legal lawsuits. “They filed a case of disrespecting religion against me even though chants against them were raised in Medina.
“They were coming to get me and put me in jail and I was ready. My bags were packed. I’ve already told you that jail is a small thing. I am willing to give my life to get my country obtain Haqeeqi Azadi from them.”
‘I respect IHC chief justice, will accept whatever he decides’
Imran who is to be indicted in a contempt case in the Islamabad High Court for his controversial remarks against sessions judge Zeba Chaudhry for approving PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s remand.
The PTI chairman, in his speech today, explained that he had merely spoken of “taking legal action” when informed of Gill’s torture through his lawyers. He said that his reaction was against the torture of a person who is not a terrorist but is actually an assistant professor at a US university.
“I wouldn’t comment on it because it’s sub judice but what was I supposed to say? He was my chief of staff. Was I not supposed to react?”
Imran commended IHC chief justice Athar Minallah for “giving brilliant verdicts in the past,” adding that “I am not saying this just because I have a case in his court now.”
“Whatever he decides I will accept. He did not let me speak but had he done so, I would have explained that under what circumstances I had made that statement [regarding the sessions judge].”
‘Nation needs to break shackles of slavery for Haqeeqi Azadi’
Earlier in his speech, he said no nation can progress until it breaks the shackles of slavery, adding that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had freed the nation from the slavery of the British but the nation was now plagued with a different type of slavery.
He reiterated his claim of him having been removed from the prime minister’s office at the behest of foreign powers and through local players.
After video clips of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s speech alongside United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres — where he had assured that any foreign aid would be spent transparently for rehabilitation of flood victims — was played on the big screen, Imran claimed the UN chief knew that 60 per cent of the PM’s cabinet was fighting corruption cases.
He said the nation was also plagued by two other kinds of slavery: poverty and mental limitation. He said he had tried to break the former of the two by bringing up the underprivileged through Single National Curriculum.
Prior to his arrival at the venue, local PTI leadership took turns to address the gathering of party workers and supporters.
The rally was the last one of the current phase of the PTI’s ‘Haqiqi Azadi Movement’ and the plan ahead was to be revealed tonight, as indicated by Imran himself in a tweet on Friday.
Ahead of Imran’s statement, PTI leader Asad Umar had urged the nation to take to the streets on Saturday evening in an expression of solidarity toward the PTI chairman. According to PTI’s twitter feed, its supporters had gathered in at least Islamabad and Karachi on the party’s call.
In a video message on Friday, Imran alleged that the “imported government and its handlers” were working on a “minus one formula”.
Ahead of the Gujranwala rally, the PTI’s official account tweeted its content with “#MinusOneNaManzoor”, indicating what the primary focus of Imran’s speech tonight could be.
Imran is the midst of a series legal wrangles. He is to be indicted in a contempt of court case, and if found guilty, he could be disqualified from holding a public office, which would dash his plan to reclaim the prime minister’s seat.