Imran begins long march with guns aimed at spy chief
• Former Prime Minister claims ISI DG gave a “political presser” while conveniently ignoring a “group of thieves” Demands the dismissal of two intelligence officers for “torturing” PTI leaders; hopes SC will uphold protesters’ fundamental right to peaceful assembly
• As long march continued, mobile internet service was briefly suspended in and around Lahore.
Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), launched his eagerly anticipated “Haqeeqi Azadi” long march toward Islamabad on Friday with a speech in which he attacked the nation’s top spymaster and other intelligence officials without holding back.
Speaking from atop a container at the Liberty Roundabout, where the march began, Mr. Khan accused the director general (DG) of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of holding a “political presser” on Thursday and accused two other army officers of acting like “Dirty Harry” by kidnapping and torturing a party senator. The PTI chairman demanded Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s attention by claiming that these officers were tarnishing the institution’s reputation.
On Thursday, ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum spoke alongside the armed forces’ spokesperson Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar in an unprecedented appearance by a spy chief at a media conference. Prior to this year’s parliamentary vote on confidence, the officers claimed their leadership was attacked for refusing to support the former prime minister using “illegal and extra-constitutional means.
” They also claimed Mr. Khan had made a last-ditch effort to save his government by offering the army chief a “indefinite extension.” The ISI DG was criticised by Mr. Khan for saying his organisation was apolitical and neutral in the opening of his speech on Friday. He claimed that the spy chief actually gave a “political presser” and purposefully avoided making any mention of the “group of thieves” whose Rs1.1 trillion theft was excused.
He made a joke about how he had never heard Sheikh Rashid, the former interior minister, conduct such an open political news conference.
Gen. Anjum was forewarned by the former premier that he also had many secrets but was keeping them to himself out of loyalty to the nation and its institutions. He claimed he had always made constructive criticisms of the army and other state institutions because he wanted to see Pakistan as an independent and sovereign state. “I am not like the absconder Nawaz Sharif that I will run away to London and then spew venom against the army,” he said.
He also criticised Islamabad Sector Commander Faheem Raza and ISI DG-C Maj Gen Faisal Naseer for allegedly kidnapping and torturing the party’s elderly senator Azam Swati. He also charged the officers with torturing journalist Jameel Farooqi and party leader Dr. Shahbaz Gill. In his demand, Mr. Khan cited the example of the removal of the ISI’s Karachi sector commander in response to a ‘harsh’ remark made by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
Senator Swati was allegedly subjected to torture, according to Mr. Khan, who claimed that her anti-army tweets did more harm than good to the state’s institutions. He stated, lamenting the fact that the world referred to such countries as “Banana Republics,” that “when Faisal and Faheem-type officers commit excesses against the masses, they eventually weaken the institutions and the country.”
The previous prime minister also issued a warning to the “facilitators and handlers” of the “imported” administration, saying that the country would never accept the “thieves” imposed on them.
Mr. Khan said he wanted to see Pakistan as a strong and independent sovereign state, which was only possible when the populace was led by leaders of its choice instead of those installed by “foreign masters through a regime change conspiracy” amid blaring pro-Imran and pro-Azadi March slogans by the enormous crowd that had gathered at the Liberty Roundabout.
He emphasised that free, fair, and reliable general elections were the only way to address the myriad issues.
Instead of being controlled by puppets in Washington, he said, Pakistan needed a government that was capable of making decisions that were in the best interests of the country’s citizens.
The PTI chairman again called for the judiciary’s attention, stating that he was holding another peaceful long march on Islamabad (within the bounds of law and the constitution) and hoped that the apex court would protect the rights this time. He complained that the Supreme Court had not protected the people’s fundamental rights to protest in a peaceful manner on May 25.
He vowed, “We won’t go to the Red Zone,” and urged the kids to remember that no outside force could instigate disorder during the long march.
Later, the marchers took an oath from Senator Faisal Javed Khan promising to continue their fight for “real independence” and to make any necessary sacrifices. In honour of murdered journalist Arshad Sharif, Mr. Khan declared he would lay the cornerstone for a journalism university in Punjab as the march left Liberty.
The marchers included Lahorites as well as residents of nearby towns like Kasur and Okara. Party flags were being waved by women and children along the route as cars following the procession played loud party music. On the march’s planned route, however, fewer protesters joined in as it went on. The PTI’s social media team, however, continued to post updates at various points about a “encouraging” response.
The long march’s first day was supposed to end at Shahdara, a suburb of Lahore, and then proceed the following morning to Gujranwala, where it would spend the second night on Saturday (today).
Moonis Elahi tweeted: “Been sorting out preparations for welcoming Prime Minister Imran Khan to Gujrat” as the ruling PML-N took jabs at Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and his son, former federal minister Moonis Elahi, for missing the PTI’s long march.
It should be noted that the younger Elahi previously declared he would continue referring to Mr. Khan as the prime minister in power.
In addition, a PTI leader said the protesters would go home as the procession left Lahore while outlining the long march strategy. On the second day, the party members and supporters from Sheikhupura and Muridke would take over and move from Shahdara to Gujranwala.
Workers and supporters from the city the march enters will also join it, while the others will return to their homes.
As soon as the march reached the twin cities, the workers and supporters from Lahore and other cities would re-join it.
blocked mobile internet
On the other hand, Lahore residents briefly lost access to mobile internet service on Friday night in and around the city, apparently as a result of the PTI’s long march. After some time had passed, the service was eventually resumed for long march.
According to a Pakistan Telecommunication Authority official, the government has the ability to instantly block the services of all cellular providers. He insisted that they were not informed about the suspension. Employee of a private mobile company also confirmed that they were not notified of the decision to suspend internet service, which was made at a “higher level.”