In a veiled warning to Pakistan’s military establishment, former prime minister Imran Khan has given an ultimatum to those who have ousted him to rectify their “mistake” by holding early elections or else his supporters will reach the capital to overthrow the “imported government”.
Addressing a rally of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore on Thursday night, Khan lashed out at the new coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and those who brought it to power.
In an indirect reference to the military establishment, Khan said, “Those who had committed this mistake of ousting my government should rectify it by holding fresh elections without any delay.”
He also asked the people of Pakistan to wait for his call to reach the capital.
“Wait for my call when I will invite you to Islamabad. I am not giving a call just to the PTI but all Pakistanis. I want to make it clear that I don’t want confrontation,” he said in an hour-long speech.
“The actual party has just begun, our campaign will intensify […] wait for my call. I don’t want anything else except early elections,” he said.
In a veiled attack on Pakistan’s Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Khan on Wednesday alleged that “some elements” in the powerful establishment who indulged in “bad practices” were responsible for his unceremonious ouster from power.
According to experts, Khan, who was ousted from power on April 10 after the National Assembly passed a no-confidence motion against him, had apparently lost the support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year. Finally, he agreed but it soured his ties with the Army.
The Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Khan, 69, is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence motion in Parliament. He was replaced by Sharif, the Opposition leader and President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Khan asked the people to pledge that they would continue their peaceful struggle for “real democracy and independence” in Pakistan till the announcement of fresh elections.
He also thanked the people of Lahore for turning out in large numbers.
“Today I will give you a future course of action that we will not accept slavery and this imported government.”
“Come what may, I will not accept this government of looters and slaves,” he added.
“Those who think that this movement will weaken…no this will get stronger,” Khan said.
“I have asked the entire leadership of the party to spread across the country and prepare the nation for the next stage of the freedom struggle. Everyone should know that the PTI has just started. Unlike my opponents, who have properties and wealth abroad, I will live and die in Pakistan,” he said.
While targeting his political opponents, Khan went on to say that those who would vote for these “traitors” in the next elections would also be traitors.
Khan also reiterated his remarks about India’s independent foreign policy unlike that of Pakistan.
“Hindustan’s foreign policy is for its people. How come our foreign policy can be for others,” he asked.
Khan had earlier praised India on a number of occasions for its independent foreign policy.
Berating the incumbent government for ousting him from power, the ex-prime minister alleged they bought the conscience of lawmakers and “polished the boots of foreign powers”.
Khan said that the day he came into power his goal was to give an independent foreign policy to Pakistan.
“We will get back our independence and the foreign powers will be punished and pushed back,” he declared.
Since his ouster, there have been anti-Bajwa and anti-judges trends on social media, forcing the Army chief and the chief justice of Pakistan to condemn the smear campaign.
Both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Federal Investigation Agency launched a crackdown on PTI social media activists and arrested 15 people. Such Twitter trends could not be curbed despite the action.
Khan rued that he was planning to import oil and wheat from Russia on 30 per cent concessional rates but his government was brought down through a planned conspiracy in which the US and local characters were involved.
The former premier also demanded that the Supreme Court probe the “letter gate” which would reveal a big conspiracy was made by the US to oust his government.
“I reject (prime minister) Shehbaz Sharif’s proposal to constitute a commission to probe the letter,” he said.
Khan has accused US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Donald Lu of threatening Pakistan’s ambassador to the US that he (Khan) must be ousted through a no-confidence motion if Pakistan wants good relations with the US.
The PTI chairman also targeted the country’s chief election commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja for what he called looking after the interests of the ruling PML-N. He said Raja should join the PML-N.
The PTI’s foreign funding case is to be decided by the election commission in a month.
Khan also defended the selling gifts he received being premier from foreign heads of state.
“Everything I bought from the national treasury is on record. The money I got from the sale of gifts was used to mend roads leading up to my residence,” he said.
Pakistan’s newly-appointed information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Thursday claimed that Khan paid a meagre amount of 20 per cent retention money and made Rs 142 million by selling state gifts from the Toshakhana.