Interacting with supporters via Twitter Spaces on Wednesday night, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan urged people to avoid maligning the armed forces, stressing that the country would not have been able to survive without the Pakistan Army.
“Never ever speak against the Army,” he said in the live audio broadcast. “If we didn’t have the Army, we wouldn’t have survived. The Army is more necessary than Imran Khan,” he said, adding that “enemies” of Pakistan attacked the armed forces. Similarly, he referred to the Dawnleaks and Memogate scandals as examples of both PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari “undermining” the Army while in power.
There has been a recent surge in criticism of the Army on social media, primarily led by supporters of the PTI. While the party has officially denied any involvement, the campaign has prompted a crackdown by the Federal Investigation Agency against activists it claims are running anti-state campaigns. The new government has also alleged that many of the trends are being boosted by ‘bots’ and do not reflect the true participation of actual users.
Khan’s Twitter Spaces interaction, lasting over an hours, marked the first time the head of a political party in Pakistan directly interacted with supporters online. The PTI has claimed that nearly half a million users globally tuned in to hear Khan speak, with around 165,000 listeners present at its peak. The chat was also livestreamed on the PTI’s other social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.
No more NROs
The former prime minister claimed that any “NRO” for “corrupt” rulers would be “disastrous” for the country, as no one would be willing to accept the justice system. Recalling that he had always maintained that the members of the current coalition government would all unite against him—even though many are former allies of his party—he reiterated his allegations of a U.S.-led conspiracy to oust him from power through a no-trust motion. “I had invited the heads of the then-opposition alliance to see the letter but they did not come,” he added. In a press conference last week, the spokesperson of the armed forces stressed that there was no “conspiracy” in the diplomatic cable sent by a former Pakistani envoy to the U.S. However, he admitted that the “harsh” language used amounted to “interference.”
Chief election commissioner
The PTI chairman also continued his attacks on Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Raja Sultan—a consensus candidate whose name was forwarded by his own party. Earlier, he had claimed that Sultan’s name had been suggested by the security establishment to break a deadlock, adding that CEC should be appointed through an independent body in future.
“CEC Sultan Raja is too much anti-PTI, as he has announced many decisions against our party,” he said, echoing his own complaints of the PTI’s opponents only accepting as “free and fair” rulings that went in their favor. “If the investigation into the party funding of all political parties is conducted, including PMLN, and PPP, I can challenge that only PTI has proper data of foreign funding. However, both PMLN and PPP will not be able to provide such data,” he claimed, referring to the foreign funding case, which has pending since 2014 as compared to the petitions against the PPP and PMLN, which were only filed in 2021.
To a question, the PTI chairman claimed he had not been the one to choose who received a party ticket ahead of the 2018 general elections. “This time I will give tickets after a proper scrutiny,” he said, adding that his experience of being the prime minister of a coalition government had been the “worst.” Explaining that the PTI’s thin majority in the National Assembly had prevented it from enacting legislation, he accused his former allies—the MQM, PMLQ, BAP—of “blackmailing” him.
“Therefore, I ask the masses to vote for the PTI next time for a clear majority so we could build a strong government,” he said. Last year, Khan had refused to meet mourning Hazara families who had been refusing to bury the victims of a terror attack until they met him by claiming he would not be “blackmailed.”
Referring to the dissident PTI MNAs who had sided with the opposition against the former government, the PTI chairman reiterated his declaration of them as “traitors.” Without specifically naming anyone, he referred to disgruntled party members as trying to “take advantage” of the PTI-led government. “Some of our people had thought that they would make money after coming into power, but we tried to stop them,” he said. “When prices of sugar had risen by Rs. 26/kg, our government tried to stop them but those people exposed themselves,” he added.
To a question about reports of threats to his life and his participation at a rally in Lahore today (Thursday), Khan said he would personally attend the gathering no matter what. “The Minar-i-Pakistan is a special place because the Pakistan resolution was presented there; Indian Muslims decided that they wanted separate land. We will also launch our freedom movement there. I believe a record number of people will come,” he said.
He said he had not expected the number of people who had come out to support him after his government’s ouster earlier this month. “I had expected just five percent of what actually came out. When I saw people I was so happy because I saw a nation emerging,” he said, adding that the protests by overseas Pakistanis had been “unprecedented.”