Peshawar: Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday dismissed reports that he struck a deal with the Pakistan Army to end his massive Azadi rally demanding fresh general elections, asserting that he had decided to end his march to avoid bloodshed.
A defiant Khan on Thursday warned that he would return to the Pakistani capital with the entire nation if the “imported government” failed to announce fresh general elections within the six-day deadline, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to retort back that his “dictation won’t work” and Parliament would decide the date for polls.
Addressing the press here, a day after he decided to call off his “Azadi rally,” the former premier said that he had witnessed massive anger and outrage amongst the masses following the police crackdown on the members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party across several cities in the country.
I had observed anger among the people against the police after what they did to stop the march, and there was a fear that if we continued to march as announced, the country would plunge into chaos and anarchy, Khan said.
“Do not think it was our weakness and don’t think that a deal was made. I am hearing strange things that a deal was made with the establishment. I did not make a deal with anyone,” he said, referring to the reported role of the powerful military establishment in ending the rally by PTI activists.
Khan asserted that the only motive behind his action to call off the rally was concern for the country, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Last week, Khan had asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and fresh elections in the country.
The 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, however, insisted that he would announce a massive rally again if early elections are not ordered by the government.
He emphasised that his party would not deal with or accept the imported government .
If they do not clearly announce a date for the elections or for the dissolution of the assemblies, I will take to the streets again. Let me make it clear, this time we will be prepared,” the Express Tribune newspaper quoted him as saying.
The former premier has slammed the Pakistan government for the brutal crackdown against the protesters.
The Pakistan government had rounded up over 1,000 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party workers.
Section 144 was imposed in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Karachi, as well as other major cities in the country, media reports said.
Khan and other senior leaders of his party were booked on Thursday by the police in two separate cases of arson and vandalism.
The charges were linked with the incidents of fire at multiple places by Khan’s supporters in Islamabad on Wednesday night during the Azadi rally’.
No arrest has been made so far but the cases will be used by the government to nab some of the leaders if Khan launches the second protest after six days as announced.
Addressing a rally of thousands of protesters of the Azadi rally’ on Thursday, Khan lashed out at the Shehbaz Sharif government for using “tactics” like raids and arrests to stop his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s march, even as he thanked the Supreme Court for taking notice of the matter.
“My message for the imported government is to dissolve assemblies and announce elections. Otherwise, I will come back again to Islamabad after six days, he told supporters.
Hours later, Sharif — who replaced Khan in April — in his address to the National Assembly refused the demand, asserting that his coalition government would not take dictation from anyone on holding the elections.
“I want to clarify to the leader of this group (Imran Khan), your dictation won’t work. This House will decide when to hold elections,” the prime minister said in a sharp retort to Khan’s deadline.
The current National Assembly would complete its five-year term in August next year, which would be followed by the general elections.
However, the prime minister can dissolve parliament at any time and call fresh elections.
Khan, who was ousted from power last month through a no-trust vote, had apparently lost the support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year. —PTI