Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan calls for nationwide protests

The 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief tore into Pakistan's Army chief General Asim Munir and blamed him for his "abduction" after a court set him free.

May 14, 2023 09:54 am | Updated 05:59 pm IST - Lahore

Former prime minister of Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan. File

Former prime minister of Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan hit out at the country's powerful army in his first address after an Islamabad court set him free, saying it should be ashamed of jumping into politics and could form its own political party.

Addressing the nation from his Lahore home on Saturday, Mr. Khan took strong exception to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) allegations against him and said the spokesperson of the army's military wing was not even born when he represented Pakistan in the world.

Calls for nationwide protests

Mr. Khan called for nationwide “freedom” protests on Sunday, after his brief arrest and detention this week triggered deadly unrest.

Enraged by the arrest, supporters set fire to government buildings, blocked roads and damaged property belonging to the military, which they blame for Mr. Khan’s downfall.

“Freedom does not come easily. You have to snatch it. You have to sacrifice for it,” he said in an address broadcast on YouTube Saturday night.

He called for supporters to hold protests “at the end of your streets and villages” across the country on Sunday evening for one hour starting at 5.30 p.m. (1230 GMT).

Also Read | Two senior leaders from Imran Khan’s party arrested

“I kept Pakistan’s flag high world over. Never has ISPR made such a statement. You should be ashamed of yourself. You have jumped into politics. Why don’t you make a political party," Mr. Khan said in an hour-long maiden speech after the Islamabad High Court gave him blanket relief in all 145 cases registered against him.

His remarks came in response to ISPR Director-General Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry’s statement in which he called Mr. Khan a "hypocrite".

"Listen to me Mr. DG ISPR…you were not even born when I was representing my country in the world and earning a good name for it. You need to be ashamed of yourself for calling me a hypocrite and anti-Army,” he said in a harsh rejoinder.

A triumphant Mr. Khan returned to his Zaman Park home in Lahore on Saturday after having locked himself in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises for hours for fear of re-arrest despite being granted bail on Friday.

Also Read | Pakistan Supreme Court calls Imran Khan’s arrest ‘illegal’; sets him free

Before leaving for Lahore, the 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief hit out at the “imported government for kidnapping” him despite the IHC granting him bail in all cases.

The 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief also tore into Pakistan's Army chief General Asim Munir and blamed him for his "abduction" after a court set him free.

In a major relief to Mr. Khan, the Islamabad High Court on Friday granted him protective bail for two weeks in a corruption case and barred the authorities from arresting the former Pakistan prime minister in any case registered anywhere in the country until Monday.

During Mr. Khan's address, video clips were shown of how army trucks dropped ‘unidentified’ plainclothesmen, who joined PTI protesters and provoked them to unleash violence and ransack public property.

Also Read | Imran Khan | The cornered captain 

Mr. Khan distanced himself from violent protests that erupted in the wake of his arrest on Tuesday from IHC premises by Pakistan Rangers, asserting that “violence and vandalism is not my philosophy”.

Mr. Khan's arrest triggered unrest in Pakistan that continued till Friday and led to several deaths and dozens of military and state installations being destroyed by the protesters.

For the first time in Pakistan's history, the protesters stormed the army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi and also torched a corps commander's house in Lahore.

Police put the death toll in violent clashes to 10 while Mr. Khan's party claims 40 of its workers lost their lives in the firing by security personnel.

"They have put the entire leadership of PTI in jails and arrested over 3,500 workers and instituted more cases against me after the attack on the state buildings by unknown persons," Mr. Khan said.

"The government parties do not want the elections because they know they will be completely wiped out. That is why they planned this conspiracy [attack on military installations] and ran away from elections," he said.

"Such actions have dire consequences. Although you [the Army] will not listen to me, I advise you to think big. You should see where the country is heading by such actions," he said.

Mr. Khan demanded an investigation into the protests and vandalism following his arrest by an independent panel to be constituted by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

“I know, who wants to create anarchy in the country and take benefit of the tense situation,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

Mr. Khan said the judiciary was the only hope for Pakistan.

He said there has been unprecedented media control by the 'handlers' who had also imposed a ban on social media to curb free speech.

He appealed to the journalists to listen to their conscience and not fear the military establishment.

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