LAHORE: Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday three plans had been prepared in case he and other main leaders of the party were arrested by the government authorities, though he avoided sharing the names of who would lead the party in such a situation.
“In case I am arrested, we have three plans ready which will be shared with the nation at the right time,” he said in a video-link interview with a private TV channel.
He said the coalition government in the centre wanted to arrest him as it could not defeat him in elections, even with the help of neutrals.
He defended his decision to defer the Sunday rally, saying that he got scared after seeing the turnover of the PTI supporters and was afraid that there might be bloodshed if everybody came out.
Earlier, the PTI chief postponed the party’s election rally in Lahore on Sunday after the Punjab caretaker government imposed Section 144 (ban on public gatherings) in the provincial capital.
On Saturday, he announced a fresh rally in Lahore after which the district administration banned public gatherings through invocation of Section 144 in the Punjab capital, citing concerns in the wake of a Pakistan Super League (PSL) match in the city.
Terming it “unfair”, the ex-premier said that when Maryam is allowed to hold public rallies, why not the PTI? “Is this a level playing field?” he questioned. He said according to their perception of level playing field, they wanted to tie hands of the opponents, and themselves hold a gun in their hands.
He said the Sharif family considered itself above the law, and they were angry why they were convicted in Panama scam. They never provided a money trail how the money reached London, which was used for buy flats in London.
He slammed Maryam saying that the PMLN was being destroyed because of her. “The senior leadership of PMLN will now take orders from this woman who has not worked even for an hour,” Khan said mocking the chief party organiser.
The cricketer-turned-politician clarified that if he and his party members disagree with the actions of the institutions, that does not mean they are fighting against them. “I can see that only judiciary can save the country from the mess that it has plunged into,” he said, adding that had the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government resolved the economic problems, the PTI would have waited for the elections patiently.
At the same time, he lambasted the coalition government for transferring Pakistani money to offshore accounts and questioned how they can fix economic problems like this.
“There is no other way to get the country out of the quagmire except through transparent elections,” the PTI leader reiterated.
However, he claimed that the PDM had only a one-point agenda which was to somehow get rid of the elections.
To a question, the PTI chairman said he had visited Russia after consulting all stakeholders including ‘neutrals’. “Neutrals had told me that it was a suitable time to pay a visit to Russia. I was unaware that Russia would attack Ukraine. There are different points of view of Russia and the West,” he explained.
“We need Russia to purchase cheap oil, gas, wheat and military hardware. I had told the neutrals that the conspiracy will destroy the economy,” Imran claimed. He regretted that a grade-22 officer, later on, criticised the Russia attack on Ukraine, though it was decided that Pakistan would stay neutral in this conflict. He said action against that officer was not taken as till that time the ‘supreme power’ of Pakistan had decided that the PTI government would be sent packing.
However, he said, he would not step back from his principled stance. “I don’t accept the slavery. If we deal with the United States on the basis of equality, then they will respect you; otherwise, they will treat you like slaves.”
Imran clarified that he did not give any statement to end ties with the US, but there is a difference between slavery and good relations. Khan said that he rejected providing military bases to the US and visited Russia despite the opposition of America.
The PTI chairman said that the decision for ousting his government was taken in a closed-door meeting. “I was aware of the conspiracy and I recorded a video and transported it to a safe place. I have mentioned the characters who were involved in the conspiracy against my government.”
Khan announced leading the election campaign in Sindh to defeat Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in its stronghold. He also announced holding intra-party elections after the general election. “When I was the prime minister, I did not even think about holding consultations for the army chief’s appointment of my own choice. I am not afraid of anyone which makes me think about appointing an army chief of my own choice. People like Nawaz Sharif want army chiefs who support him. People like Nawaz Sharif want to turn the military into Punjab police.”
The former premier said that he had never interfered in the affairs of the judiciary, the National Accountability Bureau and any other national institutions nor used the police force for revengeful actions against the political opponents.
Meanwhile, taking to Twitter, the PTI chief claimed that the Section 144 was imposed “illegally solely on PTI election campaign’, despite other public activities ongoing in Lahore.
“Only Zaman Park has been surrounded by containers & heavy police contingent. Clearly, like 8 March, Punjab CM & police want to provoke clashes to file more sham FIRs against PTI leadership and workers and to use it as a pretext for postponing elections,” said the PTI chief.
Former premier questioned how Section 144 could be imposed in the provincial capital despite announcement of the election schedule.
“I am telling all PTI workers not to fall into this trap. Hence we have postponed rally till tomorrow [Monday],” said the PTI chief.
Later, in a press conference, PTI leader Hammad Azhar confirmed the postponement of the rally and said that it might be “staged tomorrow or at a later date”.
“We want peaceful elections and peaceful transfer of power and it is possible that the rally might be held tomorrow,” said Azhar, adding that the authorities should open the roads.
PTI leader Yasmin Rashid also submitted a request against the provincial government’s decision to ban rallies in ECP Punjab office in Lahore.
Hours before the rally, the police started blocking the roads leading to Zaman Park. The road leading from The Mall road to Canal Road and Harbanspura to Zaman Park was closed. Moreover, a heavy contingent of police was deployed on various routes.