Long March: Imran comes out with guns blazing against establishment

— Former PM tells intelligence chief he’s exercising restraint to protect army, country

— PTI dedicates protest to slain anchorperson Arshad Sharif

ISLAMABAD: A day after the military accused Imran Khan of asking the establishment for “unconstitutional” support for his government in the run-up to the contentious vote of no-confidence, the former prime minister took a dig at two top generals, saying their press conference was more “political than Sheikh Rashid”, the chief of Awami Muslim League (AML).

The scathing and unprecedented news conference by the chief military spokesperson and intelligence chief came after Khan upped his criticism of the military, accusing them of plotting his removal in April and supporting the government of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Putting to rest the assumption that he would observe restraint while commenting on the army, Khan thundered at the protest march: “DG ISI, listen carefully, the things I know […] I am staying silent for my institutions and the country. I don’t want to damage my country.”

He referred to the press conference held by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Senator Azam Swati earlier in the day in which the latter had revealed the names of the officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency responsible for his custodial torture on him.

“Azam Swati took the names of two people. One is Brigadier Faheem and one is Maj. Gen. Faisal. This Dirty Harry, ever since he has come to Islamabad, he is torturing people,” Khan alleged.

“This Dirty Harry [sic] first picked up Azam illegally, stripped him naked and then tortured him in front of his grandchildren,” he claimed. “Faisal and Faheem did the same with Shahbaz Gill.”

Khan then addressed the army chief and said: “When Bilawal Bhutto gave a statement against the ISI sector commander in Karachi, you removed the official. Remove them [Faisal and Faheem] too now.

“These people are defaming you Gen. Bajwa,” he said.

The former prime minister gathered hundreds of supporters in Liberty Square of Lahore to join a caravan of cars and trucks heading for the capital to pressure the government into calling snap polls.

Khan plans to lead the motorised caravan slowly northwards up the GT Road to Islamabad, drawing more support along the way before entering the capital in a week.

The distance between the two cities is about 380 kilometres. Khan’s entourage is expected to arrive in Islamabad on November 4.

By the time he gets there, Khan said he expects to have hundreds of thousands of people with him, and his party has asked authorities in the capital to allow a protest sit-in.

“I want that all of you participate. This is not for politics or personal gain, or to topple the government […] this is to bring genuine freedom to the country,” Khan said in a video message on the eve of the march.

Since April, when the chairman of PTI was ousted in a contentious vote of no-confidence, the political environment in Islamabad has been supercharged. Khan has repeatedly accused the PDM leadership of colluding with the army and the United States to remove him.

He has organised large political rallies demanding that the government step down. Last week, smaller protests by his supporters took place after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared the former prime minister guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state, removing him from his National Assembly seat.

The government has repeatedly rejected Khan’s demand for elections. Writing for Foreign Policy, Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Wilson Center in Washington, argued the government’s position makes sense because “right now, [if the elections are held] the current government would likely lose elections.”


The party has dedicated its long march to Arshad Sharif, journalist and outspoken critic of the military who was killed under mysterious circumstances in Kenya last week, and members of the press.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, party leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar said Khan was the only leader who could bring about “much-needed” change in Pakistan.

“You should take part in this march even if you do not belong to the PTI. The nation must reject decisions taken behind closed doors,” Chaudhry told the press.

He underlined the future of Pakistan was dependent on the success and failure of today’s march. “If this movement fails, then the nation will fail,” he added.

Meanwhile, speaking to the media earlier in Islamabad, Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah Khan said the government will deal with long march participants with an iron hand, and take “strict action” if they attempt to break the law and create a law and order situation in the capital.

He said the Supreme Court’s orders regarding the protest were clear. “If protesters abide by the law, we will facilitate them,” he added.

He said democracy will be rendered meaningless if “mob culture” continued to grow in the country.


Authorities have tightened security in Islamabad ahead of the march. The government has deployed thousands of security personnel to block the protestors from entering the capital.

According to officials, the Ministry of Interior has decided to deploy around 30,000 police, rangers, and para-military troops in Islamabad and not allow protesters to enter the Red Zone near the Parliament House.

The residences of the president and prime minister, ministers’ offices, parliament, and other important buildings, including foreign embassies, are located in the Red Zone.

The ministry has also deployed paramilitary Frontier Constabulary (FC), while police from Sindh will be called out to assist the Islamabad police.

The authorities also sent hundreds of containers into Islamabad to barricade all entry points before the arrival of demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Islamabad police have issued instructions to its officers pertaining to the code of conduct during the march. Officers deployed at the frontline will be wearing anti-riot gear whereas those without proper gear will be posted outside the reach of the protesters.

Similarly, police personnel deployed to counter the long march will not be armed with weapons and would only be allowed to carry batons.

They have been told to avoid the upper parts of the body when hitting protesters in case of baton charge and use their shields effectively in case of stone-pelting by the protesters.


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