Former prime minister Imran Khan, during his speech at a PTI rally in Peshawar on Tuesday, explained that his criticism of the army was “constructive and for its own improvement” as opposed to the comments made in the past by incumbent government leaders — clips of which were shown on the big screen in front of PTI supporters as he tried making his point.

“Those from the PML-N should get this straight that we are the people who would strengthen this country’s institutions,” he said. “And even if we do criticise our army, it is for their betterment. What we do is constructive criticism.”

Imran was addressing a rally near Peshawar’s Ring Road.

“Today, I want to tell you that until and unless our institutions are not strong, the country can not succeed,” the PTI chief said. “The nation has realised that they [the PDM] are trying to pit the PTI against the institutions.”

But, Imran said that people were now “politically aware”.

“So, their efforts to push PTI against the wall […] listen to me […] the more you try to push PTI against the wall, the more I will fight you.”

Imran started his address by claiming that the government was trying to create misunderstandings between the Pakistan Army and the country’s “largest party”.

“This gang of robbers have realised that they can’t defeat us. The three stooges know that they can’t win by playing the match […] So, now they are trying to disqualify me. They have declared me to be a terrorist in the court.”

Scores of PTI supporters, decked in red and green scarves and bands, gathered at the venue on Tuesday evening. The crowd chanted slogans against the incumbent government and leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

However, immediately after Imran’s arrival, a number of people, including PTI leaders, tweeted that YouTube had been blocked in the country.

‘Enough is enough’

Ahead of the rally, Imran, in a tweet, declared “enough is enough” as he hit out at those “deliberately distorting” his remarks about the future army chief’s appointment, as the PML-N termed him an “enemy of the state”.

Imran’s comments about the appointment triggered fierce criticism from the coalition government as well as a tersely worded statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The ex-premier had alleged the PPP and PML-N were opposing fresh elections because they wanted to “appoint an army chief of their choice” in November purportedly to save their skin in corruption cases.

Imran, who had stayed mum on the matter since Sunday, said on Tuesday that he was following the “intense propaganda” against him that had been launched by the “PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) cabal of crooks”.

“This stems from [them] being petrified of [the] PTI’s soaring popularity. Today, in [the] Peshawar jalsa, I will give proper reply to all those who have deliberately been distorting my words to malign me. Enough is enough,” he said.

The tweet triggered an #EnoughIsEnough hashtag, which was one of the top political trends on Pakistani Twitter, racking up more than 84,000 retweets at the time of this report.

While PTI leaders had jumped to Imran’s defence, President Arif Alvi had all but distanced himself from the situation. In an informal chat with journalists in Peshawar, he maintained that the former premier should himself clarify his remarks.

PML-N calls Imran ‘enemy of the state’

Meanwhile, PML-N said the “enemy of the state has come out all guns blazing against the state institutions”.

It added in a tweet that from the ECP, to the judiciary, to the police and armed forces, Khan is “having a go at anyone who’s unwilling to bow down to his fascism”.

It then followed it up by saying it’s “#ImranVsPakistan now and we stand with Pakistan”.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also strongly criticised Imran, alleging that he was insulting the Constitution, the dignity of the Pakistan Army and the honour of martyrs.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that Imran’s stance about Pakistan was conditional, calling on the “curse” to be dealt with.

In a tweet on Tuesday, she said: “Imran’s stance about Pakistan is conditional. If [the] army remains neutral, I will drag it through the mud, if [the] courts do not legalise my crimes, I will blacken their faces, if the Election Commission of Pakistan exposes the theft of foreign funding, I will attack their integrity. The curse has to be dealt with,” she said.

A day earlier, Maryam had called for an end to treating Imran like a political leader, claiming that the country would go downhill if he was not treated like a “double-dealer”.

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