Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Monday admitted that his decision to call off his sit-in at the conclusion of the “Azadi March” on Islamabad was motivated by the knowledge that some of the protesters accompanying him from Peshawar were carrying weapons that they could have used against law enforcement personnel.
The ousted prime minister’s admission during an interview with journalist Moeed Pirzada came after several days of his party criticizing the coalition government’s high-handed response to its protest, with many leaders claiming that there protesters were entirely peaceful and had no desire for violence. According to Khan, he had feared the country could devolve into anarchy if the march had continued to D-Chowk.
“There was already hatred among the people due to the raids carried out by the Punjab police on PTI lawmakers’ houses a day prior to the march,” he said, adding that he was “100 percent sure” that the situation would have resulted in chaos if it were allowed to continue unchecked. “Our people had weapons on them too. I was afraid that the country will face riots,” he added.
Noting that if the PTI had continued its march, it would have provoked further hatred against the police and the Army, and sowed more discord, he said that this situation would “have only benefited the thieves in power.”
The PTI chairman also commented on the raids by police on the homes of several PTI leaders, questioning why the government had blamed his party after a PTI worker had shot dead a police constable in Lahore. “Anyone would have thought that a thief has entered a house at 2 a.m.,” he said. “We have never engaged in politics of provocation,” he added.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has repeatedly claimed that he had intelligence that the PTI planned to carry weapons to Islamabad, adding that this “proved” it desired to provoke violence in the federal capital. Ahead of the march, Punjab police claimed they had recovered a large cache of weapons from vehicles of PTI activists; the PTI had denied this and claimed the weapons had been planted on them. Khan’s admission raises new questions over whether the PTI’s denial was false. The “planting” reasoning was also voiced by the Supreme Court, which had lashed out at police for wishing to restrain protesters on the basis of information that they carried weapons with them.
In his interview, the ousted prime minister repeated that he considered the “damage” caused to Pakistan’s “morality” a greater threat than even its total destruction. “If you throw an atom bomb in a country it would cause less damage than when you destroy that country’s morality,” he claimed.
Reiterating his demands for the Supreme Court to ensure the PTI was allowed to protest, he said that the apex court was “now on trial to see if it will protect our fundamental rights or not.” He warned that if the court did not permit the PTI to protest, then the country would descend into chaos.