Home Latest News Imran Khan Says Willing to Talk to Terrorists, but Not ‘Thieves’

Imran Khan Says Willing to Talk to Terrorists, but Not ‘Thieves’

In victory speech following Pervaiz Elahi becoming Punjab chief minister, PTI chairman reiterates demand for new Election Commission

by Newsweek Pakistan

Screengrab of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s address

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday said he is willing to talk to terrorist and separatist groups but is unwilling to sit down for dialogue with “thieves”—a reference to the incumbent government, members of which he has repeatedly accused of “looting” the country.

Addressing party supporters after the Supreme Court declared Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid)’s Pervaiz Elahi as the chief minister of Punjab by ruling that PMLN’s Hamza Shehbaz’s victory had been “illegal,” the ousted prime minister thanked them for “foiling an international conspiracy” by voting for the PTI in the Punjab by-elections. Amidst rising calls for the opposition and government to formulate a unified strategy to help steer the country out of prevailing crises, Khan appeared to rubbish statements from his party’s senior leadership that they were ready for dialogue if fresh elections were announced.

“I can talk to the [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan], the separatists of Balochistan and Sindh, but not with thieves,” he said of the calls for dialogue. “Would you speak to someone who robs your home?” he added in his “thanksgiving” speech.

Khan said he wanted good relations with “everyone,” but exhorted his supporters to prefer “death to slavery.” Referring to the U.S., who he accuses of instigating the “conspiracy” that ousted him from office, Khan said he didn’t want bad ties with the superpower. “[We] export more [to the U.S.] than any other country and a large number of Pakistanis also reside there,” he said. “But death is better than slavery and we have to live with self-respect,” he added.

Public support

“Throughout my life, I have witnessed such enthusiasm only once before, and that was during the 1965 war; at that time, everybody thought that the nation was fighting. And now, I saw the same enthusiasm among the masses during the by-polls in the 20 constituencies of Punjab,” he said, stressing that general elections were the only way to resolve the prevailing crises of Pakistan. Reiterating long-dismissed “promises” that he had earlier voiced during his 2018 campaign trail—and not been able to deliver on in nearly 4 years in power—Khan said he would secure funding from overseas Pakistanis to cover Pakistan’s debts and the country would not need to return to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial assistance.

During the speech, which sounded like the start of an election campaign, Khan also vowed to revive the Sehat Card and Ehasas Ration schemes in Punjab. This suggests Khan, contrary to his calls for “immediate” fresh elections, is in no hurry to dissolve the assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where his PTI is currently in power, to raise pressure for general elections.

New ECP

Reiterating his allegations of bias against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Khan claimed a new electoral body should be formed to ensure transparent elections. Despite winning the by-elections, he claimed the controversial electronic voting machines could have stopped rigging. “The election commission also tried to defeat us by helping PMLN during the by-polls,” he alleged.

At one point, Khan appeared to admit that he had sought the military’s intervention to block the vote of no-confidence against him, saying that he had told the military establishment that if they did not help him, it would lead to economic chaos.

The ousted prime minister also commented on the Supreme Court ruling on the chief minister’s election, saying the Constitution was clear that the parliamentary leader, not the party head, could issue instructions to the party on who to vote for in by-polls. “But leaders of the ruling coalition bashed institutions and the judiciary when the decision came against them,” he said.

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