Pakistan's former PM Imran Khan holds rally at Minar-i-Pakistan despite threats

Earlier on Saturday, the Lahore ATC granted Mr. Khan interim bail till April 4

March 26, 2023 07:54 am | Updated 07:54 am IST - Lahore

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan listen to his speech during a rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, March 26, 2023.

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan listen to his speech during a rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, March 26, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Despite police placing containers inside Lahore to deter supporters, ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan managed to hold a big rally at Minar-i-Pakistan late on March 25.

The broadcast media in the country blacked out the coverage of the event .

Mr. Khan, who is facing threats to his life, addressed the rally from a bullet-proof glass.  A large number of women also gathered at the historic park.  The authorities blocked all major roads leading to Minar-i-Pakistan with containers and barricades. The people reached the venue by covering a long distance on foot because of these hurdles.

Lashing out at the PML-N-led government and “its handlers” for arresting and torturing over 2,000 of his party workers ahead of this rally, Imran Khan said “one thing is clear, whoever is in power, they will get a message today that people’s passion cannot be curbed via hurdles and containers.” He offered the powers that be to that he is ready to sit at home if they have any agenda to steer the country out of the economic quagmire. “The way the powerful circles are behaving in Pakistan today it seems that Imran Khan is the only problem of the country,” he lamented.

Mr. Khan also presented his party's roadmap for economic prosperity emphasizing the country needs difficult decisions to improve its tax collections and exports.

“A major surgery is needed to put our house in order. Overseas Pakistanis will bring their dollars to the country provided they are given incentives,” he said and added only 2.5 million Pakistanis out of 220 million pay taxes. There is a need to increase the tax base to achieve progress, he said and also proposed giving loans to young people to start businesses and reviving the mortgage scheme.

Mr. Khan said a cabal of thieves have been imposed on the nation after toppling his government in April last year.

“I have completed a century of cases. I may cross 150. Poor spend their entire life-fighting false cases in this country. Pakistan has no future if there is no rule of law," he said and added that ‘real freedom’ will only come if rule of law prevails in the country.  The 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman lambasted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for begging around the world but failing to get any reprieve.  Taking a jibe at Mr. Sharif, Mr. Khan said: “Former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said he used to scold Shehbaz for 40 minutes and he would not react and listen patiently. This happens when you (Shehbaz) come to power through the backdoor”.

The cricketer-turned-politician said for the first time in his life he felt what the people in Palestine feel.

“Police attacked my house as they wanted to arrest me in false cases. The people supported me during the clash with the police as they knew I was right. They have booked me in 40 terrorism cases...will the nation accept that Imran Khan is a terrorist?” he asked.

He said despite Supreme Court's orders, the Election Commission of Pakistan delayed the April 30 elections of the Punjab Assembly for October 8 on the pretext of security and financial constraints.

“How will they guarantee that the elections will be held even in October? The government and its handlers have only one-point agenda — how to stop me from returning to power.” He said all eyes are on the Supreme Court to establish rule of law by holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 90 days.

Earlier on Saturday, the Lahore ATC granted Mr. Khan interim bail till April 4 in three cases filed at the Lahore Race Course police station — two of which were on March 14 and March 15 — relating to the clashes that took place between PTI supporters and the police outside the PTI chief’s Zaman Park residence.

Mr. Khan has been in the dock for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch, which he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana, and selling them for profit.

Mr. Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, becoming the first Pakistani Prime Minister to be voted out by the National Assembly.

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