LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan announced Saturday that starting next week, his party would hold rallies every day till May 14 — when elections to the Punjab Assembly are scheduled to be held on the Supreme Court’s order.
He made the announcement in an address to workers at a rally at Lahore’s Lakshmi Chowk metro station held to “support the Constitution, Supreme Court, and the chief justice of Pakistan”.
The PTI held rallies in four cities — Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Peshawar.
“It is the entire nation’s decision to stand with the Constitution and [against] the way this mafia is putting pressure on and doing propaganda against the chief justice and [other] judges,” Khan said while referring to the incumbent coalition government.
Announcing the plan for daily rallies, the PTI chairman said he would come out and prepare the public to protest if elections were not held.
“When a country’s Constitution is violated, it means the justice system and the rule of law have ended. Most of all, it means that the nation has lost its freedom and become slaves.
“We will not rest till elections are held and Pakistan is free,” he stressed.
‘Indian minister’s statement reflects on his country’
Referring to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s recent visit to India to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Khan said the way the former was treated by his Indian counterpart was a “matter of shame for all of us”.
Khan also addressed remarks made by Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who called Bilawal “a promoter, justifier, and spokesperson of a terrorism industry which is the mainstay of Pakistan”.
“Do you (Jaishankar) have no manners or etiquette? A guest comes to your country … inviting him and insulting him reflects on your country,” Khan said.
Govt, judiciary at loggerheads
The PTI’s rallies come amid a standoff between the government and the higher judiciary on the date of elections in Punjab as well as a recently passed act related to the chief justice’s powers.
The top court has ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold polls for the Punjab Assembly on May 14 and the government to release Rs21 billion in this regard. However, the government has failed to issue the amount despite repeated directives from the SC.
Earlier this week, negotiations between the PTI and the government on a date for the elections — held in five formal and informal rounds — concluded without a consensus being reached.
Following the end of the talks, the PTI submitted a report to the Supreme Court requesting it to ensure the implementation of its April 4 verdict to hold polls in Punjab on May 14.
During the hearing of a separate petition seeking simultaneous countrywide elections, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the top court would use the Constitution to ensure that its April 4 order was implemented if talks between the government and the opposition failed.
Meanwhile, the government has notified the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which aimed to curtail the chief justice’s powers to take suo motu notices and form benches.
The SC, while hearing petitions challenging the bill — which has since become an act — directed Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan to produce copies of the proceedings of the standing committee meeting during which the legislation was discussed.
The move prompted further uproar in the National Assembly, which had previously passed a motion to condemn what it stated was an aggressive attempt by the Supreme Court to usurp the parliament’s authority.