GUJAR KHAN: Justifying his decision to hold political rallies at a time when the country was devastated by floods, PTI chairman Imran Khan on Saturday said that he was waging a fight for “haqeeqi azadi” (real freedom), which will continue during heatwaves, floods and even wars.

Addressing a public gathering in Jhe­lum, the former prime minister cen­su­red his rivals for what he claimed was ‘a planned campaign against the PTI’.

“A massive campaign is being run through newspapers, friendly media, journalists and one particular media house that always protects the thieves. They are saying that this is not the time to hold rallies.”

However, Mr Khan, denied that he was indulging in politics at a time of tragedy and instead called it a “fight for haqeeqi azadi”.

“I am waging war against these thieves who looted the country for 30 years. I am fighting for the supremacy of law. I am fighting for a country which was supposed to be an Islamic welfare state.

Calls out his opponents for running campaign against PTI; says party ‘not out to derail IMF programme’; announces telethon for flood victims; forms committee under Sania Nishtar to disburse relief funds

“I will keep helping my people, but I will not spare you,” he said, referring to his opponents.

Taking a jibe at the government, Mr Khan said that he is being asked not to hold rallies during floods, but the government continues to ‘push the country’s largest political party against the wall.’

“A terrorism case has been filed against me. They even came to arrest me. This news was reported all over the world. They called Pakistan a banana republic. We were mocked.”

“I only said that those who had tortured Shahbaz Gill should be tried as per law,” he said, asking whether he committed terrorism by saying this.

He also alleged that a certain Mr Y has been tasked with threatening the PTI in Islamabad and warned them that such attempts would be tantamount to treason.

Mr Khan also censured Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Miftah Isamail for alleging that the PTI intended to derail the IMF loan programme.

Addressing the incumbent government, he said, when he left power, inflation was 16 per cent, now it is at 45pc.

“They [the current government] have devastated the economy, but today Miftah [Ismail] says the PTI wants to derail the economy.”

He claimed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finance minister has been asking for a meeting with Mr Ismail for the past two months.

Now, the KP finance minister was rightly apprehensive of managing a surplus budget when the province has suffered losses of billions due to flood, Mr Khan said.

“Our people are in distress from Swat, Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan to Sindh and Balochistan. Every area is under water,” he said.

He added that the scale of devastation is so big that the government alone couldn’t provide the relief unless the entire nation comes together.

During his visit to flood-hit areas of DI Khan on Friday, Mr Khan had said that although he was under pressure to collect funds for the victims, he would not do it unless transparency is assured.

He also said that he could not collect funds for the KP, as he had to collect donations for Shaukat Khanum Hospital, NUML University and Al-Qadir University.

However, on Saturday, he changed his tune, saying he was gathering a force of volunteers to help the provincial government.

“…on Monday evening, I will conduct a telethon to gather funds from Pakistanis and overseas Pakistanis and give the funds to Punjab and KP governments.” A committee headed by Dr Sania Nish­tar would oversee the disbursement of the funds, he said.

He also criticised the past governments for not constructing dams, claiming that the current devastation could have been averted if there were more reservoirs.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2022

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