ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday asked former prime minister Imran Khan to return to parliament and hold a dialogue with the government and its allies for early elections, a day before the ex-premier is scheduled to hold a massive rally in a final showdown with the government.
Ex-PM Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, resigned from his parliamentary membership a day later. His resignation followed mass resignations of members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from parliament.
The former premier has since been agitating against the coalition government of PM Shehbaz Sharif and has held several rallies in a bid to pressure the government into announcing snap polls in the South Asian country, which are scheduled to be held in the latter half of 2023.
In a final showdown with government, Khan has urged his supporters to gather in the garrison city of Rawalpindi today, Saturday, for a massive protest against his ouster, but Sanaullah advised Khan to “act like a politician” in order to achieve his goal, instead of being “obstinate.”
“Don’t be obstinate. If you want a date for the election, then act like a politician, sit with other politicians [and] have a dialogue,” the minister said on Twitter.
He also told Khan that he should not pin his hopes on the country’s army, which even when not in power is the invisible guiding hand of politics in the country, as the army as an institution would not go beyond its constitutional role.
“Come back and become a part of the parliament. Let the political and democratic process go forward.”
Khan says his ouster was part of a United States-backed foreign conspiracy for pursuing an independent foreign policy for Pakistan. Washington and Khan’s opponents have repeatedly denied the allegation.
Late last month, he launched a march toward the Pakistani capital of Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore, which was ended last week upon reaching Rawat town near the capital.
The former premier has also been increasingly critical of Pakistan’s powerful army and its outgoing chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, for not blocking his ouster and maintains he has been protesting for a “free” Pakistani nation.
Sanaullah also asked Khan not to pin his hopes on the country’s establishment, a term that is synonymous to the all-powerful army in Pakistan’s context, and said the army as an institution would neither step back from or go beyond its constitutional role.
Pakistan’s army has ruled the South Asian country for nearly half of its 75-year history, and even when not in power, it is seen as the invisible guiding hand in the country’s politics.
Sanaullah also asked the former prime minister to postpone his anti-government rally in Rawalpindi, saying intelligence agencies had warned that a militant attack could target the gathering.
Prior to that, the provincial government in Punjab, which Rawalpindi is a part of, said it had made arrangements to provide “foolproof” security to Khan and his protest rally.