Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday announced that his party will stage a public rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan on Sunday (March 19) as part of his campaign ahead of elections in Punjab on April 30.
In an address to supporters from his bulletproof vehicle during an election rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar, he said the Minar-e-Pakistan event would be held during the day, at 2 p.m., so no one could raise questions on the number of people who would attend. “We all have to struggle together,” he said, stressing that the nation must come out to achieve “real independence” and ensure “accountability” for “thieves,” his descriptive for political opponents.
Discussing the Toshakhana record from 2002-to date that the incumbent government made public on Sunday, Khan claimed this had “exposed” the ruling alliance and “proven” that his retention of gifts from the state’s coffers was not unique or illegal. Referring specifically to the Toshakhana reference against him—which alleges that he retained gifts and sold them without declaring them in his tax filings—he lamented that his rivals had used it as a means of character assassination. A “gang of thieves” has been imposed on the country, he added.
Criticizing the interim Punjab government for preventing PTI rallies twice before, he reiterated claims of the country being on the verge of collapse. “We faced lots of hurdles in the way of taking out the rally, because the imported government is using foul tactics to prevent us from taking part in the elections and subsequently, push us out of the election race,” he claimed. “It [government] is registering fake cases against me and my fellow PTI leaders. Every day, a new case is being registered against me. Over 80 cases have been registered against me, so far,” he added, exaggerating the number of cases registered against him, which are closer to 40.
Khan also claimed that the PTI would not “forget or forgive” anyone involved in the murder of party worker Ali Bilal—also known as Zile Shah—vowing that they would face justice. A day earlier, in an interview with Samaa News anchor Mansoor Ali Khan, the deceased worker’s mother had blamed Khan for her son’s death and demanded that he “bring him back.”
Initially scheduled to take place on March 8, the PTI’s rally was called off after the caretaker government in Punjab imposed Section 144, barring public gatherings of five or more people. It was similarly postponed on March 12 before finally being allowed to proceed on Monday. The rally commenced from Khan’s Zaman Park residence, passing through Iqbal Road, Dharampura, Garhi Shahu, the Railway Station, Delhi Gate, Shah Alam and Lohari Gate, before concluding at Data Darbar. Khan was due to appear in two court cases on the same day but he skipped the proceedings, resulting in judges issuing two non-bailable arrest warrants to ensure his appearance.