Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday urged the public to protest against rampant inflation “for their own good,” warning that the country risked becoming “the next Sri Lanka” if the economic crisis is not resolved.
Addressing supporters assembled at various points nationwide via video-link from his Bani gala residence in Islamabad, the ousted prime minister said it was time to ramp up the struggle against the “imported government.” The protest, called for 9 p.m., was addressed by Khan shortly after 10 p.m., with his speech lasting a little over 30 minutes.
“I have called you to protest against price hike as it is in your own favor,” he said. “The impoverished, as well as the salaried people, farmers and laborers, will suffer more because of the inflation,” he continued. “I will soon give another call for protests, which will continue until we are given a date for free and transparent election,” he said, stressing that the PTI did not just want fresh elections, but “free and fair elections.”
Criticizing the incumbent government for accusing his administration of laying “landmines” for it, he said the PTI had only increased petrol and diesel prices by “a few rupees” while it had risen over Rs. 100 in the past few weeks. He claimed this was not a result of demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), maintaining that his government had resisted these measures despite two-and-a-half years under the global lender’s program. “We also got instructions by the IMF to increase prices, but we instead reduced the price of petrol by Rs. 10,” he said, describing the initiative that the incumbent government has repeatedly blamed for reducing the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Lamenting that the economic situation had plunged the international ratings of the country and its financial institutions, he claimed this would impact the construction of dams initiated by his government, as no loans would be provided for them. He also claimed the Finance Minister Miftah Ismail—during a recent meeting with the U.S. envoy in Islamabad—had asked for “relief.”
Per routine, the ousted prime minister reiterated allegations of a “conspiracy” being responsible for his government’s ouster. “I contacted the ‘neutrals’ and tried to convince them that it was not the right time to bring a new regime as they cannot control the issues and handle the economy,” he said, referring to the military leadership. “[Energy minister] Khurram Dastgir has confessed that they have come to power because of the fear that [former opposition] would have been sent to the jail by Imran Khan,” he added.