Rawalpindi, Nov 25 (PTI) Preparations were in full swing on Friday for a massive rally planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party on Saturday, despite the government’s warning that its chairman and former premier Imran Khan should not address the protest march due to a threat to his life.
Khan, who is recovering from bullet wounds suffered during an assassination bid on November 3, is set to address his supporters in Rawalpindi on Saturday. He has said his PTI party’s protest in Rawalpindi, demanding fresh general elections, would be “completely peaceful”.
Interior minister Rana Sanullah, while addressing a press conference, warned that there was a threat to the life of Khan and asked him to postpone his planned rally.
“There is no reason for the rally and he should not go for it as there is threat to his life,” Sanaullah told the media after presiding over a meeting of senior police and other officials where he discussed the issue of security for the rally.
“I reviewed a meeting and all intelligence agencies have alerted me that any terrorist outfit can take advantage of this march. There is a threat to Imran himself,” he said.
He said that the government has sent a letter to Umar, detailing the threats to the PTI’s long march in Rawalpindi.
He urged Umar to look into the letter and added that if he wanted to verify the threats, “he can sit with the agency representatives”.
Khan, 70, has promised a huge political show at Faizabad Interchange linking Rawalpindi with Islamabad, but after the capital administration refused to allow him to go ahead, he would now hold the rally on Murree Road near Faizabad.
The special container, which is mounted on a truck for his address, has been transported to Murree Road and the stage was being set for his speech on Friday. It will be Khan’s first public appearance since he was injured in a gun attack in Wazirabad while leading his long march towards Islamabad.
The march was halted briefly but began its journey towards the capital under the guidance of PTI’s senior vice president Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Last week, it reached in the suburbs of Rawalpindi and Khan announced that he will address it on November 26, when the protest is expected to culminate.
His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has declared that Khan was ready to travel but the Islamabad administration is yet to allow the landing of his helicopter at the Parade Ground near Faizabad due to security reasons.
“The federal government is creating hurdles for the landing of the helicopter and it will be responsible if something happens to Imran Khan,” PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said.
The Islamabad district administration on Thursday refused to grant permission for the landing of the helicopter. The federal government also extended the implementation of Section 144 in the capital for another two months.
Earlier, the Army General Headquarters (GHQ) had informed the PTI that it had no objection to the landing and taking off of Khan’s helicopter, but the party should approach the Capital Development Authority (CDA) or the federal government as the Parade Ground was under their jurisdiction.
Interior minister Sanullah has assured that none of the roads in Islamabad will be closed on Saturday and the district administration would provide all the necessary support to the PTI.
Sanaullah urged Khan to come back to Parliament to take the country forward.
“If you don’t do this, then you will be responsible for everything including inflation, economic turmoil and political turmoil. Stop being stubborn and come join the political process instead,” he said.
When politicians sit together, deadlocks are broken and decisions are changed, he said, adding that Khan would not get a date for fresh elections from Rawalpindi and should behave like a politician and hold a dialogue for it.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will not refuse if he (Khan) will come up for a meeting,” he said.
Earlier, the minister said at the meeting that it was the constitutional responsibility of the provincial governments to stop a “political party's illegal entry into the federal capital".
"(Provincial) Chief Secretaries should ensure that no government employee becomes part of any initiative or plan to attack the federation," he said.
Khan has urged his supporters to reach Rawalpindi on November 26 where the ousted Pakistan prime minister said he will announce his “next plan of action” for the protest march against the government led by Prime Minister Sharif.
Addressing his party members via a video link from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, Khan said the nation cannot remain “neutral” at this critical juncture.
Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan. The US has denied the allegations.
The cricketer-turned-politician, the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament, is seeking fresh general elections. The term of the current National Assembly will end in August 2023. PTI SH MRJ AKJ MRJ