Imran tells govt to choose between polls and protests

PTI chairman delivers virtual address as his supporters stage nationwide protests against hyperinflation

Telling his workers and supporters to get ready for his call for yet another long march, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday said that the country’s economic and political situation would “deteriorate further” if early elections were not held.

“If free and transparent elections are not held, further chaos will spread,” he said while addressing the anti-inflation protest rallies via video link. Party supporters took to the streets in various cities across the country to protest against rising inflation on Imran’s call.

In Karachi, the protest was staged at Shahrah-e-Quaideen. A large number of police officials were deployed on the road leading from Shahrah-e-Faisal to Shahrah-e-Quaideen.

Former Sindh governor Imran Ismail and other members of the PTI’s local leadership led the protest.

In Peshawar, the protest was staged in front of the main Hashtnagri Gate as party workers chanted slogans against the government.

In Lahore, the protesters, including women, gathered at Liberty Roundabout. Similarly, protests were also staged in Islamabad and the neighbouring Rawalpindi. At various protest sites, screens were set up to watch Imran’s virtual address, which he delivered a little after 10pm.

In his speech, Imran said he had asked people to protest against inflation “for their own good”. He warned that more price hikes and inflation were in the offing, and asked people to increase their struggle against the “imported government”. The former prime minister recalled that his government had “rolled out subsidies and distributed health cards despite being in the IMF programme”.

“This government is in the IMF programme for two months and we remained in it for two-and-a-half years,” the PTI chief said as he made the comparison. Imran said his government had reduced petrol prices by Rs10 at a time when the IMF wanted him to jack up fuel prices.

Hitting out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led unity government, the former premier said the “real landmines” were laid by the Nawaz Sharif-led government when it left the power in 2018 with a $20 billion current account deficit.

He said it was the efforts of the PTI government that saw the economy grow by 5.4 per cent and 6 per cent for two consecutive years.

“It was the effort of our team led by Hammad Azhar, with all institutions on board, including the Pakistan Army, that resulted in Pakistan nearly exiting the FATF’s grey list,” he said.

He noted that the country plunged into crisis only after a US-sponsored conspiracy was hatched with “our local Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq” as central characters.

“I also approached the neutrals and appreciated their stance of being neutral, but at the same time, I apprised them of the economic repercussions of the foreign plan. The moment I had conveyed the concerns was the right time to foil the conspiracy,” the PTI chief said.

Imran said he was “thankful” to Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir for allegedly admitting during a TV interview that “Shehbaz and other leaders would have been in jail, had Imran remained in power”.

The former PM said the statement of PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla – wherein he commented on the potential of Pakistan having diplomatic ties was Israel – was also “part of the same agenda” that toppled his government.