PTI chief alleges ‘neutrals’ behind crackdown on party

Former prime minister Imran Khan on Sunday levelled a series of allegations against the ‘neutrals’ — a term he uses to allude to the military establishment — saying as per the “information he received from insiders” they were the ones who were allegedly responsible for the ongoing crackdown on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Addressing a political gathering at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh, the PTI chairman said that with this gathering he had started the journey to achieve “real freedom” for the country and he would not rest until he has achieved his goal.

“On May 25, when the police used violence against us, I was told by insiders that the police were ordered from above, which means that neutrals pressurised them to give PTI workers a thrashing,” Mr Khan said and questioned whether the “neutrals were really neutral”.

Speaking about the disqualification case against him in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the PTI chairman alleged: “The chief election commission[er] is giving every decision against us … I got information from the inside that he [the CEC] was not doing anything on his own but there was pressure from above.”

Mr Khan alleged that the police also said that they were not responsible for the torture of his aide Shahbaz Gill as they did not and it happened after “orders from behind”. “They [police] are also pointing fingers towards you… whenever anything wrong happens in Pakistan, you are blamed for it,” the PTI chief added.

The former prime minister said he wanted to ask the powers-that-be if “they were neutral or not”.

Mr Khan further accused the authorities of harassing visitors to Banigala, his residence in Islamabad, and said the people who came to meet him “received calls from the intelligence agencies”.

“I want to ask whether you are neutral or not. If you stand with these people [PDM government], will the nation stop thinking of them as thieves,” he asked. Mr Khan alleged that a certain Mr Y has come to Islamabad…I know what their plan is,” he claimed, alleging that the government wanted to get rid of him by putting him in jail and sideline the PTI.

According to Imran Khan, PTI was the “biggest party at the federal level” and any attempts to break the party would hurt the country. “Political parties are the glue that keeps the country together,” he said.

The former premier spent the first half of his speech on why he was ousted from power. He claimed that he was removed because he wanted to bring independent foreign policy.

Talking about his Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill, Mr Khan said that Shehbaz Gill was kidnapped and tortured to give a statement against him. The former premier called out the sessions judge who sent Mr Gill on physical remand despite alleged torture, saying, “Magistrate Zeba, when a man was brought to you after [alleged] torture, you handed him over to the police again… did you do justice as a judge?”

YouTube blackout

YouTube services in parts of the country reportedly faced disruptions during Imran Khan’s speech. It may be mentioned here that his live addresses were banned on TV channels on Saturday night by the electronic media regulator in light of his controversial remarks about judges and police officials.

The PTI issued a condemnation and noted that “coincidentally, YouTube was back to being fully operational as soon as our historic rally finished.” “Freedom of expression is completely finished in Pakistan,” it added.

PTI leader Shireen Mazari also condemned the censorship and said, “Regime change conspirators [are] so scared of Imran Khan that today in the middle of [his] speech they blocked YouTube through PTA. Shameful!

This will not silence us. Fascism at its peak as fear overwhelms the cabal of crooks and their string pullers!” PTI leader Hammad Azhar also lashed out at the authorities for the “crackdown on freedom of speech”.

In a late-night development, a heavy contingent of police reached outside the Banigala residence of Imran Khan and erected barricades to stop PTI workers from proceeding to his house, as media reports suggested that after the conclusion of his Liaquat Bagh rally there was a possibility that he could be arrested under a non-bailable case registered against him at Margalla police station.

However, there were unclear reports about his whereabouts.

According to some reports, Mr Khan did not return to his hilltop house after the public meeting and stayed at an undisclosed location in Rawalpindi.

But PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that Mr Khan was at his residence and thousands of party workers and his followers had gathered outside and were holding protest against the registration of FIR against him. “Khan sahib is inside and thousands of workers are gathering outside,” he added.

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