Warning against steps to stop march, Imran says will announce long march’s date next Friday

ISLAMABAD: PTI Chairman Imran Khan said Saturday that he will announce the date for his “Haqeeqi Azadi March” next Friday, warning the government against taking steps to stop the march.

Addressing a press conference alongside PTI Senator Azam Swati, Imran Khan played down the reports about his arrest, saying that even if he was put behind bars, the long march would take place.

The former prime minister was already embroiled in several cases against him, but on Saturday, he was also named in a first information report (FIR) registered at a police station in Islamabad after his party workers took to the streets following the Toshakana verdict — that disqualified him under Article 63(1)(p).

The government approached the Supreme Court earlier to stop the PTI’s long march. However, the apex court rejected the request to issue an interim order for stopping the PTI’s planned long march — giving a boost to the Khan-led party.

Before it approached the top court, the government issued repeated warnings to the PTI chief, with a top official saying that the authorities would multiply their May 25 policy by 10 if Khan announces another long march.

If the PTI holds another long march, then it would be the second time they would be coming to Islamabad. The last march was held on May 25 and ended with Khan abruptly calling off the march after reaching Islamabad.

The PTI chief said he would announce the date now as he was not hopeful of the government holding snap elections. “This time, the march will be peaceful, and people will enjoy it.”

The PTI chief added that he would not allow the government to torture or harass his party leaders and workers like the last time. “This sort of violence does not take place anywhere in the world.”

Negotiations and Swati’s ‘torture’

Replying to a question regarding Khan taking a U-turn on the long march if dialogue between ruling alliance lawmakers succeeds with the PTI leaders, the PTI chief revealed that there is always back-channel communication going on.

“Political parties are always negotiating through back-channel but there is no result of these negotiations,” he said, renewing his demand for free and fair elections.

It should, however, be noted that government officials have time and again downplayed all such speculations.

Decrying the alleged torture of Swati, the former prime minister claimed that the law enforcement agencies entered the ex-federal minister’s residence without a warrant.

“Azam Swati was tortured in front of his children. What crime did Azam Swati commit, just that he criticised a person holding a big office?” Khan asked.

The PTI chief asked which country allows authorities to arrest a person based on a critical tweet.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested Swati on October 13, and he remained in remand till he was granted bail on Friday. Swati was arrested for “controversial tweets”.

“The most terrifying thing of all, Azam Swati was handed over to someone else. Who were the people to whom he was handed over to?” Khan asked.

The PTI chief demanded Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial summon FIA officials and ask them about Swati’s alleged handover.

Khan alleged that the people whom Swati was allegedly handed over to, tortured and stripped him naked. “Shahbaz Gill was also handed over to someone and tortured.”

The PTI chief said the issue at hand is that there are people in Pakistan who are “above the law”.




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