Imran to opt for a different strategy if PTI marchers don’t get SC’s protection for next protest

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PESHAWAR, MAY 30: PTI Chairman Imran Khan said on Monday that if the Supreme Court does not provide his party “protection” from police action for the next round of their protest, he would opt for a different strategy wherein his supporters would be “prepared” to deal with the situation.

Addressing a lawyers’ convention in Peshawar, the former prime minister said: “If they (SC) don’t give us protection, today I stand here in front of you and say that I will have another strategy.”

Under this strategy, Imran said the PTI would make a plan for dealing with the obstacles. “[That] time round we weren’t prepared […] we were stuck unprepared. This time we will be prepared,” he said, declaring that this was a jihad for him. “I will not accept this imported government at any cost.”

Imran march for haqeeqi azadi — true freedom — was preceded by the authorities invoking of Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were put in place on major thoroughfares to block their path.

Undeterred by the moves, the marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse them. Police also charged at them with batons.

PTI’s Azam Swati has also filed a police complaint seeking the registration of a first information report (FIR) against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Inspector General of Police Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir and others over “police brutality and unreasonable use of force” against PTI supporters.

During his speech, Imran came down hard on the ruling coalition, reiterating that they were brought in through a “foreign conspiracy”. He also lambasted the government for the crackdown on the participants of the much hyped but short-lived Azadi March held on May 25.

“We have asked for a ruling from the SC over whether or not we have the democratic right to stage a peaceful protest? If this is a democracy […] under what basis were we stopped? How can they stop the chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan?” he asked.

He asserted that his party did not have a “history of violence”, pointing to the PTI’s 126-day sit-in in Islamabad in 2014. He said that he called of the sit-in on May 25 in an effort to avoid bloodshed.

Imran said the brutality of the police had angered the people, adding that he feared that it would lead to violence and chaos. He said that it would also have developed hatred against the police as well as the army as Rangers had also fired tear gas shells.

“I did not want my country to be divided and for our enemies to benefit,” he said.

Imran asked the apex court to give a ruling providing an explanation why obstacles were placed to stop the PTI from holding the long march. He also questioned whether the SC would still allow such “undemocratic” moves when the PTI announces the date for its next march.

“This kind of brutality doesn’t even happen in dictatorships,” he said.

‘Defining moment’

During his speech, Imran said that Pakistan was currently witnessing a “defining moment”, and called on the legal fraternity and the judiciary to play their role in saving the country.

“I want you all to think of this as a jihad. This is a fight for our haqeeqi azadi (true freedom),” he said. He went on to say that future generations would not be forgiving if they did not raise their voice.

Turning his guns towards the Sharif family, Imran said that when he entered politics he was warned about them. “I was warned that they were cheap and disgusting and would not spare my family.”

He accused the Sharif family of functioning like a mafia where it would either buy off people’s loyalties or eliminate them.

Imran also lamented that the law only applied to the country’s poor, pointing out how the indictment of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Sharif was being delayed.