ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan warned that inflation is set to rise further and the country is headed towards becoming the next Sri Lanka, which is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence.
Addressing party workers across the country through video link, Mr Khan asked people to take to the streets against inflation “for their own good” and ramp up their struggle against the “imported government”.
PTI workers and supporters took to the streets in various cities across the country to protest against rising inflation on Mr Khan’s call.
At various protest sites, screens were installed for his online address that he delivered a little after 10pm.
Says PTI wants not just elections, but free and fair elections; claims conspiracy against PTI govt hampered economy
“I have called you to protest against price hike as it is in your own favour. The poor class, including salaried people, farmers and labourers, will suffer more because of the inflation. I will again give you a call for the protest, which will be continued until we get the date of the free and transparent election,” he said. “We do not want just elections. We want free and fair elections.”
He said the current government was claiming that Imran Khan had laid landmines, but the fact was that the PTI had increased petrol and diesel prices by just a few rupees while the incumbent rulers had raised it by more than Rs100.
Rejecting the notion that the recent price hikes were because of the International Monetary Fund’s programme, Mr Khan said the current government had been in the IMF programme for the last two weeks, but the PTI government was in the programme for the last two and a half years.
“We also got instructions by the IMF to increase prices, but we instead reduced the price of petrol by Rs10,” he said.
The former prime minister said the economy was in abysmal condition due to which international ratings of the country and its institutions had been downgraded, which would make it unable to get loans for dams.
Mr Khan also claimed that Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had asked for “relief” from the US envoy stationed in Islamabad.
“We took the remittances to $31bn and exports to $32bn. But then a conspiracy was hatched by Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq which hampered the economy,” he said.
“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,” Mr Khan said, using a euphemism to refer to the military.
“Khurram Dastgir has confessed that they have come to power because of the fear that [the then opposition] would have been sent to the jail by Imran Khan,” the PTI chief said.
The PTI protests were held in all major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan. The demonstrations are also being held in other cities of the country.
On Thursday, the PTI chief called on citizens to hold protests across the country on Sunday against the “imported” government.
In Lahore, a large number of protesters, including women and children, reached the Liberty Chowk, where a mega electronic screen was installed to display Mr Khan’s speech.
Speaking on the occasion, PTI central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid and general secretary Hammad Azhar said the flood of inflation had pushed the poor masses to commit suicide as they could hardly make ends meet.
Led by former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, PTI’s Sindh president Ali Zaidi, senior leaders and legislators, the charged protesters, including women and children, chanted slogans and danced to party songs.
In Peshawar, many PTI workers gathered at Hashtnagri Chowk. A 20-foot screen was installed at the site to show Mr Khan’s speech. Former Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, MNA Arbab Aamir Ayub, KP Environment Minister Ishtiaq Urmar and female MPAs were also present on the occasion.
In Karachi, too, hundreds of PTI workers and supporters congregated on Shahrah-e-Qauideen to join the countrywide demonstrations.