Protesters at ‘Azadi March’ were armed, admits Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Despite making continuous claims of holding a peaceful march towards the federal capital, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan admitted that the protesters coming with him during the “Azadi March” were carrying weapons with them.

Speaking at an interview with a private TV channel about the PTI’s “Azadi March” and the clashes between the party members and the police, the former premier said that he felt that the country would have gone towards anarchy.

“There was already hatred among the people due to raids carried out by the Punjab Police a day prior to the march,” said Khan, adding that “he was 100% sure that the situation would lead to chaos.”

“Our people had weapons on them too. I was afraid that the country will now face riots,” Khan told the journalist.

He said that this would have led to hatred against the police, the institutions and a division in the country among the people and this situation would have only benefited the “thieves” in power.

Talking about the raids on the houses of several PTI leaders, he said that the government blamed the PTI for the martyred constable’s death. “Anyone would have thought that a thief has entered a house at 2am,” he said. “We have never engaged in politics of provocation.”

Meanwhile, Imran Khan on Monday requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan to appoint monitoring judges in the cases involving Sharifs. Addressing a lawyers’ convention in Peshawar, he said the PTI was waiting for the Supreme Court ruling regarding the long march and also sought protection from the SC.

Imran Khan said all previous governments in Pakistan were removed because of corruption with the exception of the PTI-led one, Geo News reported. “Since our government was not removed due to corruption, people took to the streets instead of distributing sweets.”

He said that the current political milieu of the country was posing a real challenge for the judiciary as well as the lawyers in the country. “I, therefore, want the lawyer’s community to support me as they and the judiciary as a whole play an important role in saving the country,” he said.

During the speech, Imran Khan once again criticised the incumbent government and blamed it for conspiring with the United States to oust him. The PTI chairman then went on to explain how US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu threatened the Pakistani ambassador to the US and detailed how, according to him, the PTI-led government was removed from power by the then opposition.

“They [the then opposition] comprised bootlickers, that’s why the US wanted to bring them back to power.” Praising his government’s performance, the ex-PM claimed that Pakistan performed better in the last two years in the economic sector as compared to the past.

“The country grew economically by 5.6 percent in 2021 and 6 percent in 2022,” said Imran Khan, adding that the country achieved record tax collection targets during his tenure. “India — which is a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) country — bought oil from Russia at lower prices and has reduced the petroleum prices in its country while our government increased the prices.”

He said that Pakistan has been ruled by the military but two political families — Sharifs and Zardaris — monopolised the political area and remained in power for the last 62 years.

“I ruled for three-and-a-half years and they started having issues with my government just because Pakistan wanted to maintain cordial relations with other countries but refused to fight their wars,” he said. He then criticised the former government for allowing the United States to allow drone attacks in Pakistan.

“We had no relation will 9/11. I will not give Pakistan’s bases to America,” said the former PM, adding that Pakistan neither wanted bad relations with any country nor did it want to become their slave. Talking about the Masjid-e-Nabawi (PBUH) incident, Imran Khan said that the current government was “cursed by Allah to the point that people, even when they were present at a holy place, couldn’t stop themselves from chanting slogans against these corrupt leaders”.

“What was our [PTI’s] fault if ordinary people chanted slogans against these people in Madina?” the former prime minister questioned. Imran Khan lambasted the PMLN and said that the Supreme Court had rightly called the Sharif family a “Sicilian Mafia”.

“I have never seen anyone more filthy than this family,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif killed a record number of people between 1997-1998 in police encounters. “If these people stay in the government, the rule of law in the country will be destroyed,” said the PTI chairman.

Referring to the government’s decision to launch a crackdown against PTI workers during the “Azadi March” last week, Imran Khan said that the party has approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“Tomorrow, we will submit our case in the SC for a hearing,” he said. “I did not want chaos in the country. PTI will now take to the streets with preparations and planning,” he concluded.

Addressing the lawyers’ convention, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan announced the use of force against federal government. He said that they participated in the long march unarmed in previous long march but will now use province’s force.

The KP chief minister also announced to lodge case against the federal government for martyrdom of party workers and consultation with the legal team is underway in this regard. Mahmood Khan further said that they participated in the previous long march unarmed but will now use KP force when Imran Khan would announce long march.

Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said Shehbaz Sharif wanted to sell his clothes in Bisham but no one would buy his clothes. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, meanwhile, said Imran Khan had confessed to his crime by saying that “his people were carrying arms during march”.

In a tweet he said said now the former premier was insisting that Supreme Court should give him the right to create anarchy and attack [the federal capital again]. “Anokha ladla, khelan ko mange fasad” [What an amazing darling he is, asking for a permission to spread anarchy], the senior politician took a jibe at the PTI chief in the form of a famous line from classic Urdu poetry.

Federal Minister for Water Resources Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, replying to a question by anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada in Geo News programme, said that he has been saying from the day one that the PTI lawmakers would not resign from the National Assembly, adding that it would be good if they return to the Parliament.

The PPP leader said this in that the NA speaker had started verifying the resignations at a time when the PTI MPAs were mulling whether to return to the Parliament or not, asking the PPP leader whether it would be good if the PTI returned to the Parliament.

He said Imran Khan himself admitted that his party workers brought weapons in the long march, adding that former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had termed the long march as ‘bloody march,’ asking what should the government do; whether it should go for the bloodshed.

He further said it is now being said that the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Police would also take part in the long march, which is very dangerous trend, adding that the government would have to decide what it could do to deal with it.

He said the government would see what the Constitution says in case a province attacks or tries to invade the Centre and would deal with it in line with the interpretation of the Constitution.

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