| Imran Khan says party will approach Supreme Court to seek clarity before holding ‘peaceful protests’



PESHAWAR   -   Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said Saturday that he would again give a protest call for the next long march towards Islamabad if his ‘democratic demand for general election’ is not met within his six-day deadline. Addressing a press conference here, he said the PTI’s Core Committee discussed in detail various options as they would embark on the long march with full preparations.

He said the PTI would also approach the Supreme Court to seek its directions whether the people and political parties could hold peaceful protests. Under the Constitution, he said, the people had the right to hold peaceful protests, but force was used against the participants of PTI march, with all the roads, highways and exit points of cities barricaded.

“We are taking the petition in the Supreme Court on Monday and asking whether or not a peaceful protest in this country is a right of a democratic party. Tell us clearly if this harassment would continue if we stage a peaceful protest,” he said.

He said they would get lodged criminal cases against police officers involved in violence against peaceful protesters, he added. He claimed that his government was in talks with Russia to purchase fuel at less than 30 percent of the market rate to give relief to the masses.

Apart from approaching the apex court, Imran said cases will also be registered against Lahore Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Sohail Chaudhry and Islamabad Inspector General of Police Dr Akbar Nasir Khan. “We have to write down the names of police officers, register cases against them and will also share their names and faces on social media,” he added.

Imran said the matter would be a ‘test for democracy’ and the judiciary as well. “Will we sit down quietly if you close the doors of peaceful protest?” he questioned.

The PTI chairman claimed the courts had always given ‘favour and benefits’ to the Sharif family in the cases against them. He lashed out at the government for its economic performance since coming to power and highlighted the slide of the rupee and stock market. The PTI chairman also explained his decision to end the Azadi March, saying that he did so because of the “anger in our people”. He said he feared the anger would spill over into bloodshed and that it was never his aim to enable violence and instability.

Imran said new elections are his “number one priority” and discussions on other issues could be held once the matter of elections was on the table. “I’m ready for every kind of negotiation leading up to fair and transparent elections.”

The PTI chairman said the party had learned many lessons from the Azadi March, had developed contingencies to counter the government’s heavy handed measure and would be better prepared next time.

Imran said he had issued directions to the PTI leadership to go to their constituencies and start preparations from today (Saturday) for the party’s next march, claiming that a record numbers of people would turn up this time.

“We have decided today, we have analysed and we have begun all our preparations, I will announce when we are coming to Islamabad [again]. This time we will come with preparations.” Imran also said the PTI would legally challenge the government’s move to “revoke voting rights for overseas Pakistanis” and its changes to the National Accountability Bureau laws.