Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he would continue to hold political rallies as part of his goal to achieve 'haqeeqi azadi' (real freedom) for Pakistan.
Khan has come under criticism lately for holding rallies even as the country is battered with floods in which more than 1,000 persons are reported to have been killed. However, Khan has vowed to continue his offensive against Shehbaz Sharif's government, which he claims to be an "imported" and a puppet regime.
Before being ousted as prime minister in April, Khan had claimed a foreign conspiracy against him. He had alleged that the United States had conspired with the then Opposition —and the current Sharif-led ruling coalition— to oust him as he was pursuing an independent foreign policy. He has continued the rhetoric since ouster and has repeatedly called Sharif's government as an imported "regime".
This is not only a gross violation of freedom of speech but also negatively affects the digital media industry and the livelihoods of many. What they need to understand is that no matter what they do, they cannot suppress the will of the people which is Haqeeqi Azadi.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 21, 2022
Speaking at a rally in Jhelum district of Pakistan's Punjab province, Khan on Saturday said that he is waging war against the “thieves” who looted Pakistan for 30 years and also fighting for the supremacy of the law, the Dawn newspaper reported on Sunday.
"I am waging war against these thieves who looted the country for 30 years. I am fighting for the supremacy of law. I am fighting for a country which was supposed to be an Islamic welfare state,” said Khan.
Despite being ousted from power after losing a dramatic midnight no-confidence motion in April, Khan remains hugely popular in Pakistan. He and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have continued to hold large rallies across Pakistan to take on the Sharif-led coalition government.
A massive response from the record Haripur crowd on mobilisation for Tehreek e Haqeeqi Azadi. Thank you people of Haripur. pic.twitter.com/05MQbcEO2s— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 24, 2022
The floods caused by the torrential rain since June 14 on Sunday took the lives of another 119 people, inundating a vast swathe of flat land in the south and southwest of the country. The floods this year can cause damage of up to $4 billion to Pakistani economy, according to a report.
During the rally, Khan said that a massive campaign is being run against his rallies.
"Massive campaign is being run through newspapers, friendly media, journalists and one particular media house that always protects the thieves. They are saying that this is not the time to hold rallies,” said Khan.
Khan denied that he was indulging in politics at the time of the tragedy and instead called it a “fight for haqeeqi azadi”.
Taking a dig at the Sharif-led ruling coalition, Khan said he is being asked not to hold rallies during floods, but the government continues to "push the country’s largest political party against the wall".
"A terrorism case has been filed against me. They even came to arrest me. This news was reported all over the world. They called Pakistan a banana republic. We were mocked,” said Khan.
Khan was recently booked under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (punishment for acts of terrorism) for “threatening” a female judge and senior police officers at a public rally in Islamabad. However, he was given interim bail till September 1 in the matter.
Though accused of holding rallies as the country suffers from floods, Khan has surveyed flood-affected areas and has started fundraising initiatives.
On the ground to get a briefing & meet some of the flood affectees at one of the relief camps set up by the KP Govt in DIKhan. pic.twitter.com/5clGOyz5Jn— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 26, 2022
"Our senior leadership met and we decided I would do international telethon to raise funds for flood affectees on Monday night. Imran Tigers will be activated to volunteer for relief work. A committee under Sania Nishtar wiĺl be set up to identify and coordinate funds allocation based on needs," said Khan in a tweet.
In a seperate tweet, he said that flood relief and the fight for Haqeeqi Azadi (real freedom) would continue side-by-side.
(With PTI inputs)