“We will withdraw the call for countrywide shutdown if the judicial commission is set up,’ Imran told a news conference. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR/EXPRESS
“We will withdraw the call for countrywide shutdown if the judicial commission is set up,’ Imran told a news conference. Moments later, he modified the offer and said: “We will withdraw the call even if the government announces date for setting up the commission.”
The PTI has announced closure of major cities followed by a nationwide shutdown on December 18 to pressurise the government into accepting its demand for an independent audit of the May 2013 elections which, it claims, were rigged in favour of the ruling PML-N.
According to the schedule, the PTI shut down Faisalabad on December 8 and Karachi on 12and now it is prepared to paralyse Lahore on Monday (today). Sit-ins will be staged at different locations in Lahore, especially outside the Punjab Assembly building and in constituencies where the party alleges last year’s elections were massively rigged.
Imran warned the government against resorting to violence to counter the PTI’s Lahore closure plans. “Our people will not act like silent spectators and they will respond if the PML-N resorted to the same tactics it used on December 8 in Faisalabad,” he warned.
Imran Khan said he is mindful of the losses due to his party’s protests in Karachi [on December 12] and Lahore [today] and apologised for the hardships people are facing due to the PTI’s protest.
“I apologise to the people of Lahore but we are doing this for the betterment of system and for true democracy in the country,” he said. “We will not force traders to shut down their shops and I appeal to them to sacrifice one day for the sake of a cause,” he added.
Responding to a question, Imran said: “There is no plan to march towards Raiwind and besiege the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [on December 15]. It is not part of Plan-C but I cannot say about our next strategy,” he added.
The PTI has planned to block 18 different points in Lahore today to choke the main arteries of the city. Imran Khan is also likely to visit all the points after he lands in the city at 11am. His main speech is expected to be delivered at Charing Cross at 4pm.
PTI prepares an MoU
The PTI chairman said his party has done its homework and prepared a MoU comprising points already agreed upon by the government side during previous rounds of talks.
“The MoU will be presented for endorsement of the already agreed upon points,” he said.
The PTI claims that the government had agreed to set up a judicial commission through an ordinance and a joint investigation team, comprising members of intelligence agencies including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).
He once again said that if the government is sincere in addressing the issue, then the judicial commission can be set up in 48 hours.
At one time government thought that Imran Khan has launched the movement for the sake of army and it was really afraid but later on when pressure was reduced, they backed out from their commitment, he said.
Struggling not for personal gain
Imran also clarified that his demand for audit of four National Assembly constituencies was not aimed at personal gains. “I am not doing this for winning these constituencies. We are not doing it to participate in re-elections; rather we want to identify those involved [in rigging] and tell the nation about them,” he added.
Recalling his stance on rigging in general elections, he said he had made it clear even before the polls, and from the hospital bed and on the floor of the National Assembly that his party would take to the streets in case of rigging.
“We had demanded audit merely of four constituencies and after one and a half year, results reveal that during the May 2013 polls thousands of unverifiable votes were cast, fake CNICs were marked on counterfoils and extra ballot papers were printed,” he said.
No one should doubt that the PML-N is hiding rigging but the truth has started to surface, he added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of the PTI Youth Wing workers rallied in the streets of Lahore on Sunday. Members of Insaf Youth Wing and Insaf Students Federation also organised rallies across the city and burnt tyres on the road near Punjab University’s new campus.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2014.