If PTI still manages to pull it off, Wednesday’s march will culminate in a sit-in until both of Imran’s demands – dissolution of the National Assembly and announcement of a date for fresh polls – are accepted.
“The government won’t allow PTI to spread chaos and disorder in the guise of a march. They will be stopped so that they cannot propagate their misleading agenda,” interior minister Rana Sanaullah said at a presser.
Flanked by senior representatives of the PML(N)-led coalition, Sanaullah alleged that the PTI leadership had moved from “abuses to bullets”, alluding to a constable being shot and killed during a raid on a party functionary’s house in Lahore’s Model Town late Monday.
The interior minister claimed that the PTI leadership had assembled in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and was planning to use the province’s resources and personnel to come and attack the federation. Imran’s party has been in government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for nearly a decade.
Sanaullah said everyone had the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest, but PTI had no intention of ensuring a peaceful protest. “Had they not called it a bloody march and spoken about spreading anarchy, we would not have stopped them.”
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior PTI functionary and former information minister, claimed the houses of more than 1,100 party workers and office-bearers were raided around midnight on Monday.
“More than 400 workers and leaders have been arrested,” he said, adding that the crackdown was continuing but the party’s senior leadership was “safe”.
Officials confirmed the raids but refused to give out details on the arrests. Social media was flooded with videos showing police personnel barging into homes of PTI workers and allegedly harassing their family members.
Imran lashed out at the government during a presser in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and urged the judiciary and “neutrals” (a reference to the security establishment) “to do the right thing” and take note of the government’s attempts to stop the long march.
He condemned the raids against his supporters, likening the conduct of the government to that of “military dictators”.
Imran asked the judiciary why it hadn’t spoken up against the raids and the alleged police harassment yet. “If you allow this, then the credibility of the judiciary will cease to exist. It would mean that there is no democracy in Pakistan,” he said.
Addressing the military, he iterated that “staying neutral is no longer an option”.
“God has not given us the option to be neutral,” he said, claiming that choosing neutrality meant siding with criminals.
“You need to understand that the public is looking at you, and you will also be judged. You will be equally responsible if the country goes towards destruction,” Imran said, reminiscent of how he had exhorted citizens to side with “good against evil” in the run-up to the dramatic no-trust vote that cost him the PM’s chair.
Citing the example of Afghanistan and praising the people there for “overcoming their fear” and standing up to any invading force, the former cricketer urged his supporters to leave fear behind in the face of the government’s alleged attempts to intimidate PTI.
“No one could rule them (Afghanistan). They have defeated superpowers,” Imran said, seeking to boost his supporters’ morale.
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