PTI Chairman asks ‘what police will do when millions of people’ will join the protest rally n Claims PTI’s workers receiving threatening phone calls from unknown numbers n Pledges the protesters will not enter Islamabad’s Red Zone n Insists he will only hold jalsas as per court’s permission.

LAHORE    -    Finally, Pakistan Teh­reek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Tuesday announced that his party will start anti-government long march towards Islam­abad from Lahore on October 28 (Friday).

The former prime minister who was oust­ed from power in April made this announce­ment while addressing news conference at the Chief Minister’s House in Lahore. Flanked by party leaders, Imran said that the protest march will begin from Lahore’s Liberty Chowk at 11:00 am and he himself will lead the rally. The announcement came while Khan was holding a press conference in Lahore, during which he said that the march will start from Lahore’s Liber­ty Chowk at 11:00am. “This is our march for real freedom and it has no timeframe. We will reach Islamabad from the GT Road and people from across the country will join the march towards Islamabad,” the PTI leader said. He also ‘predicted’ that the protest march will be the biggest in the history of the country. He went on to say that the long march is ‘not politics but a ‘holy war’ for the future of the country.

This is something way be­yond politics, he said, it is a war for freedom from these thieves that have been imposed over us. “This jihad will decide where the country will go.”

About the demands of the march, the former premier said that he only wanted one thing and that is the decision that who would head the country.

“We want that the people should take the decision. Today, I appeal to the entire nation that you will have to decide be­tween becoming a free coun­try or serving these thieves.” Responding to a question, he said that the protest would be peaceful. “We are not going to break the law or entering the Red Zone. Whatever will hap­pen in Islamabad, it will be ac­cording to what the courts have permitted us,” he said. “We have given instructions to ev­eryone to remain peaceful and we will just show where the na­tion stands.”

Responding to government’s warnings with regard to the long march, Imran Khan said that when he was the premier, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Reh­man, PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz, and PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held two long marches.

“At that time, they disregard­ed the economic situation of the country,” he said. The gov­ernment approached the Su­preme Court earlier to stop the PTI’s long march. However, the apex court rejected the request to issue an interim order for stopping the PTI’s planned long march — giving a boost to the Khan-led party.

Before it approached the top court, the government issued repeated warnings to the PTI chief, with a top official saying that the authorities would mul­tiply their May 25 policy by 10 if Khan announces another long march. If the PTI holds anoth­er long march, then it would be the second time they would be coming to Islamabad. The last march was held on May 25 and ended with Khan abruptly call­ing off the march after reaching Islamabad.

Khan, during the presser, add­ed that he was supposed to start the long march much earlier but the government created hin­drances for the party.

“On May 25, our peaceful marchers were attacked and we had to call it off just for the sake of the country. Horse trad­ing took place in Sindh House and our government was force­fully toppled. And when I won the July by-elections, I was bom­barded with court cases,” the PTI chief lamented. He added that so far, the coalition gov­ernment had registered 24 first information reports (FIRs) against him. 

Speaking about the specula­tions regarding negotiations with the coalition government, Imran Khan said that he had re­peatedly stated that these polit­ical parties creating problems by holding negotiations.

“I am sure that they [coalition government] will not announce snap polls as they aren’t ready to play the match,” he claimed, adding that the long march would remain peaceful and that there was no need to bring po­lice personnel to the capital from Sindh. “PTI’s public gath­erings and jalsas have always remained peaceful as families also participate,” he said while questioning what would the po­lice do when millions of people will join the march.

He also challenged PML-N and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to contest elections against the PTI in Punjab and Sindh so that he could see how they would win seats. Khan claimed that PTI’s workers in Multan were receiving phone calls from unknown num­bers through which they were threatened not to participate in the long march. 

“Do they [the government] expect the nation to sit silently like sheep?” he questioned, add­ing that as long as he is alive, he will continue fighting all the “thieves and this system”.

He also reiterated that he was the leader of a big political par­ty, therefore, he had no need to beg the United States to make decisions for Pakistan. Stress­ing that the PTI was a powerful party, Khan said that over the last six months, he had success­fully brought people out on the streets to fight injustice. 

“We are neither going to fight [the government] nor going to the Red Zone,” he said, stress­ing that the PTI will only hold jalsas in places where the court has permitted it to do so. We have instructed all of our marchers to remain peaceful to avoid any untoward situa­tion,” he said. 

Reacting to the allegations levelled against him by his op­ponents for being “irrespon­sible” for holding a march when the country was under­going a crisis, Imran Khan said that when he had taken office as the prime minister of the country, Pakistan was suffer­ing from the “worst economic” situation.

“At that time, the country had no foreign exchanging reserves to support the falling rupee,” he said, adding that to top it all off, his government also had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Praising the former PTI-led gov­ernment, Khan said that once the country successfully tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, it saw exemplary growth — one which had not been witnessed in the last 17 years.

Imran Khan also spoke about the slain journalist Arshad Sharif, who was shot dead on the evening of October 23 by the Kenyan Police in Nairobi, and said that the deceased was a true patriot. 

“The entire journalist commu­nity knows that Arshad Shar­if had stood up for the country,” Khan said, adding that peo­ple were also aware that two members of Sharif’s family had been martyred. “I had repeat­edly warned Arshad to leave the country [as he was not safe there] but he did not listen.”

Referring to his political op­ponents, the PTI chief further said that “dacoits” saved them­selves after assuming power and amended selected laws, especially the National Ac­countability Bureau (NAB) Or­dinance. “One can see clear differences between today’s Pakistan and the one that we left,” he said, urging people to compare the prices of electric­ity, oil and gas during the PTI’s tenure and under the current government’s rule.