Islamabad: In a massive show of strength ahead of a crucial no-confidence motion against his government, Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday addressed a mammoth rally in the national capital where he claimed that foreign powers were involved in a conspiracy’ to topple his coalition government.
Addressing the rally of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) titled Amr Bil Maroof’ (enjoin the good) and billed as a “historic” event at Parade Ground in Islamabad, Prime Minister Khan said foreign elements are using local politicians and money to mend the country’s foreign policy and asserted that he has a letter as evidence’ to support his claims.
“Attempts are being made through foreign money to change the government in Pakistan. Our people are being used. Mostly inadvertently, but some people are using money against us. We know from what places attempts are being to pressure us. We have been threatened in writing but we will not compromise on national interest,” Khan said in his marathon speech that lasted more than an hour and a half.
“The letter I have is proof and I want to dare anyone who is doubting this letter. I will invite them off the record. We have to decide for how long we will have to live like this. We are getting threats. There are many things about foreign conspiracy which will be shared very soon,” he said.
At the beginning of his address, Khan thanked the participants of the rally for responding to his call and gathering in Islamabad from every part of the country.
Khan said that poor countries are backward because the law there fails to catch the rich who are involved in white collar crimes. They transfer stolen and looted money to offshore accounts. Small thieves do not destroy a country like the way big thieves do, he said.
“These ‘three stooges’ are looting the country for years and all this drama is being done to have Imran Khan surrender like Musharraf. They are trying to blackmail the government. General Musharraf tried to save his government and gave these thieves NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and it resulted in the destruction of Pakistan,” Khan was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
“Come what may, I will not forgive them even if my government goes or even if I lose my life,” he said, apparently referring to former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples’ Party leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) leader Fazlur Rehman.
In his speech, Khan also made an impassioned appeal to his party lawmakers while exhorting those from the opposition to desist from voting against him the upcoming no-trust vote against him.
Pakistan has been on the edge since Opposition parties on March 8 submitted the no-confidence motion before the National Assembly Secretariat, alleging that the PTI government led by Prime Minister Khan was responsible for the economic crisis and the spiralling inflation in the country.
On Friday, the National Assembly’s crucial session on the no-trust motion against embattled Khan was adjourned by the speaker without tabling of the resolution, amid vociferous protests from opposition lawmakers.
“I called you here because attempts are being made to bribe people. They decided to dislodge our government by claiming that Pakistan is being destroyed. I challenge that no government gave a performance like we did in our three and a half years,” Khan told the rally on Sunday.
The premier listed a series of policy decisions taken by his government which he said benefited the country greatly and would continue to do so in future, the newspaper reported.
Two special trains were mobilised by the national transporter, Pakistan Railways, from Lahore and Islamabad at the request of the government to transport PTI workers.
The public meeting will be the largest in the history of the country and have a great impact, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood told reporters on Saturday.
The call for the rally was given by prime minister Khan as he has been trying to present his fight against a group of crooked opposition leaders , but still many believe that gathering could be his swan song due to the odds of no-confidence heavily decked against him.
“Today is a battle for Pakistan…and not for PTI, it’s a battle for the future of our nation,” Khan had said in a message issued hours before the gathering.
While Khan was addressing the rally, a Baloch leader, Shahzain Bugti, announced to part ways with him. He had been given the task to hold talks with estranged Baloch nationalist leaders to bring them into the mainstream but he ended by getting estranged himself and ditching the premier.
Bugti was working as special assistant to the prime minister on reconciliation and harmony in Balochistan. He said that the prime minister had promised to focus on South Balochistan and under-developed areas, “but he failed to do so”.
Meanwhile, an equally huge event is expected in Islamabad on Monday by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of the Opposition parties.
The PDM comprising the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) retaliated to hold their power show a day later that will coincide with the National Assembly session when the no-confidence motion is set to be formally moved in the house.
The JUI-F supporters have started moving under the supervision of local leaders, JUI-F spokesperson Aslam Ghauri told the media.
They are mainly coming from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan where the party has a lot of support. Some of them have already reached Hakla Interchange near Islamabad.
Another big protest march led by PML-N vice presidents Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Hamza Shehbaz, who is the son of PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, started from Lahore on Saturday. Travelling on the historic GT Road, they are scheduled to reach Islamabad on Monday to attend the opposition rally.
It (the march) will be the last nail in the coffin of the PTI government, Maryam told her supporters.
Interior minister Sheikh Rashid warned that the Opposition would not be allowed to block any main roads for political activities as it was against the direction of the Supreme Court.
We have deployed paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Corps along the Srinagar Highway and any effort to block it will be resisted, he said.
Rashid said over 15,000 security personnel would be deployed for keeping law and order and also warned to call the Army in case of any untoward incident.
The political temperature has been slowly reaching a boiling point in the wake of the no-trust move by the Opposition. The make and break point for prime minister Khan is likely to be reached by the end of next week.
The Opposition parties are confident that they can get the support of 172 members in the house of 342 to dislodge the government, while the government claims that it enjoys the required support in the house to foil the attempt.
Khan came to power in 2018 with promises to create a Naya Pakistan’ but miserably failed to address the basic problem of keeping the prices of commodities in control, giving air to the sails of opposition ships to make war on his government.
With major allies of Khan looking the other way and about two dozen PTI members of Parliament revolting against him, and the powerful establishment not providing a helping hand, he is less likely to get the support of the much-coveted 172 lawmakers.
Khan, 69, is heading a coalition government and he can be removed if some of the partners decide to switch sides.
The PTI has 155 members in the 342-member National Assembly and needs at least 172 lawmakers on its side to remain in the government.