RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan announced on Saturday his party would not remain part of the “corrupt” political system of the country and resign from all assemblies to intensify pressure on the coalition government to call early elections.
Khan, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April after losing parliamentary majority. Since then, he has held several anti-government rallies across Pakistan and was expected by some of his workers to announce a march on the Islamabad which he decided to avoid “to circumvent chaos.”
The former prime minister asked PTI legislators in the National Assembly to resign after the downfall of his administration, though his lawmakers continued to stay in the Senate and provincial assemblies.
“We have decided to quit from all the assemblies,” Khan told a rally of his workers and supporters in Rawalpindi after reiterating that his government was driven out of power as a result of a foreign conspiracy. “We will leave this corrupt system.”
Khan, who addressed the gathering while sitting in his chair behind a bulletproof glass after surviving an apparent bid on his life while leading a protest march initiated last month, said he had practiced politics for 26 years while staying within the legal and constitutional ambit.
He said he would have a word with his chief ministers and hold parliamentary party meetings to discuss his decision of leaving the assemblies.
Khan’s political faction remains in power in two politically significant provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa despite losing his government at the center.
PTI administrations also rule Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, though the two territories have no public representation in the National Assembly or the Senate of Pakistan.
While some government functionaries said Khan’s allies in Punjab would not dissolve the assembly, Moonis Elahi, the province’s chief minister’s son who is also thought to be close to Khan, announced on Twitter the former prime minister’s instructions would be followed.
According to Pakistan’s constitution, the governor of a province can dissolve its assembly after getting the advice of its chief minister.
This was Khan’s first public appearance since he getting shot in the legs in Wazirabad city earlier this month. He arrived in Rawalpindi in a helicopter this afternoon to address the anti-government march.
Khan told his supporters it was not easy to travel with bullet wounds which would take at least three more months to heal, though he added he had still decided to call the rally since the country was at a crossroads.
“You are facing two different paths,” he continued. “One of them will take you to blessings and freedom. The other one will lead to destruction and slavery.”
He criticized the incumbent government for destroying the national economy and deliberately weakening state institutions, calling its leaders a bunch of “thieves” who did not care whether the country was going bankrupt or not.
The PTI chief reiterated the only way out of the current political and economic turmoil of the country was to hold snap polls, though he accused his rivals of running away from such political contest since “they are fearful of their defeat.”
He said the PTI administration was the only government in the country that had tried to work for the well-being of people.
“What crime did we commit that our government was brought down,” he asked.
Khan said he only remained unsuccessful on one count during his three-year rule.
“I failed in bringing the powerful under the law,” he continued. “The National Accountability Bureau was not under me. It was reporting to the establishment.”
The PTI chief maintained every time he brought up the issue of accountability, he was asked to focus on the economy.
“Those who had the power did not think corruption was bad,” he said in an oblique reference to the country’s military leadership.
Khan added he was proud that Pakistan’s armed forces were the strongest in the Muslim world, though he maintained they should not consider themselves above criticism.