Tuesday, October 25, 2022
LAHORE: PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday announced the date for his party's much-awaited long march and said that it will start on Friday, October 28.
The announcement came while Khan was holding a press conference at the Chief Minister's House in Lahore, during which he said that the march will start from Lahore's Liberty Chowk at 11am.
The former prime minister termed PTI’s long march “far above” politics and said that the move was tantamount to "jihad" as it was now a decisive moment for the people of Pakistan to choose their sides.
"This march will decide whether the people want to do slavery of these “thieves” or not. There is our march for Haqeeqi Azaadi and it has no timeframe. We will reach Islamabad from the GT Road and the nation will come from across Pakistan to Islamabad,” he maintained.
Shedding light on the way the government issued warnings to the PTI in relation to the long march, Khan said that when he was the premier, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N's Maryam Nawaz, and PPP's Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari held two long marches.
"At that time, they disregarded the economic situation of the country," he said.
The government approached the Supreme Court earlier to stop the PTI's long march. However, the apex court rejected the request to issue an interim order for stopping the PTI’s planned long march — giving a boost to the Khan-led party.
Before it approached the top court, the government issued repeated warnings to the PTI chief, with a top official saying that the authorities would multiply their May 25 policy by 10 if Khan announces another long march.
If the PTI holds another long march, then it would be the second time they would be coming to Islamabad. The last march was held on May 25 and ended with Khan abruptly calling off the march after reaching Islamabad.
Khan, during the presser, added that he was supposed to start the long march much earlier but the government created hindrances for the party.
"On May 25, our peaceful marchers were attacked and we had to call it off just for the sake of the country. Horse trading took place in Sindh House and our government was forcefully toppled. And when I won the July by-elections, I was bombarded with court cases," the PTI chief lamented.
He added that so far, the coalition government had registered 24 first information reports (FIRs) against Khan.
Commenting on speculations regarding negotiations with the coalition government, Khan stated that he has repeatedly stressed that political parties create problems by holding negotiations.
“I am sure that they [coalition government] will not announce snap polls as they aren’t ready to play the match,” he claimed, adding that the long march would remain peaceful and that there was no need to bring police personnel to the capital from Sindh.
“PTI’s public gatherings and jalsas have always remained peaceful as families also participate,” he said while questioning what would the police do when millions of people will join the march.
The cricketer-turned-politician challenged PML-N and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to contest against the PTI in Punjab and Sindh so that he [Khan] could see how will they win seats.
Khan claimed that PTI's workers in Multan were receiving phone calls from unknown numbers through which they were threatened not to participate in the long march.
"Do they [the government] expect the nation to sit silently like sheep?" he questioned, adding that as long as he is alive, he will continue fighting all the "thieves and this system".
He also reiterated that he was the leader of a big political party, therefore, he had no need to bow down to the United States to make decisions for Pakistan.
Stressing that the PTI was a powerful party, Khan said that over the last six months, he had successfully brought people out on the streets to fight injustice.
"We are neither going to fight [the government] nor going to the Red Zone," he said, stressing that the PTI will only hold jalsas in places where the court has permitted it to do so.
"We have instructed all of our marchers to remain peaceful to avoid any untoward situation," he said.
Responding to the allegations levelled against him by his opponents for being "irresponsible" for holding a march when the country was undergoing a crisis, Khan said that when he had taken office as the prime minister of the country, Pakistan was suffering from the "worst economic" situation.
"At that time, the country had no foreign exchanging reserves to support the falling rupee," he said, adding that to top it all off, his government also had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Praising the former PTI-led government, Khan said that once the country successfully tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, it saw exemplary growth — one which had not been witnessed in the last 17 years.
"We employed efforts to help the farmers' community and as a result, they were able to grow high-quality crops. Our IT exports increased three-fold due to the PTI government's policies," he recalled while also praising the Billion Tree Tsunami initiative to tackle the issue of climate change, which Khan said was lauded by the world.
Khan also extolled the PTI government's health-card initiative and said that such schemes were not even found in the most developed countries of the world.
Khan then spoke about the slain journalist Arshad Sharif, who was shot to death on the evening of October 23 by the Kenyan police in Nairobi, and said that the deceased was a true patriot.
"The entire journalist community knows that Arshad Sharif had stood up for the country," Khan said, adding that people were also aware that two members of Sharif's family had been martyred.
"I had repeatedly warned Arshad to leave the country [as he was not safe there] but he did not listen."
Referring to his political opponents, the PTI chief further said that “dacoits” saved themselves after assuming power and amended selected laws, especially the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance.
“One can see clear differences between today’s Pakistan and the one that we left,” he said, urging people to compare the prices of electricity, oil and gas during the PTI’s tenure and under the current government’s rule.