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Pakistan: Imran Khan's PTI to hold countrywide protests on Feb 17 against alleged rigging in polls

PTI has approached other parties to join Saturday's protest against alleged rigging in last week's elections. Meanwhile, the party rejected to hold talks with PPP after reports emerged that Imran Khan softened his stance and was ready to hold talks with the Bilawal Bhutto-led party.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Rawalpindi Published on: February 15, 2024 23:39 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, Imran Khan, PTI protest
Image Source : AP Pakistan: Imran Khan's PTI protest against alleged rigging in February 8 elections.

Pakistan elections: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has announced that it would hold "peaceful protests" across the country against alleged rigging in last week's elections and the "marginalisation of the PTI". Party leader Gohar Khan urged political parties and the public to join the protests and said that "we won't let our mandate be stolen", Dawn reported.

“For this purpose, we are inviting all political parties whether it is the GDA, JI, JUI-F, TLP, ANP or any other party that believed the mandate was changed and rigging took place,” he said, while addressing a press event in Rawalpindi. Gohar also rejected reports of Imran Khan softening his stance and agreeing to hold talks with Bilawal Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Some party sources told Geo News that Imran was "ready" to talk to the PPP, which has already announced supporting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) candidate for prime minister — Shehbaz Sharif. However, PTI leaders rebuffed these reports and said that the ex-PM had "strictly" advised against holding talks with PPP and PML-N.

“The PTI is doing politics for the protection of the public’s rights and believes in the supremacy of the mandate and democracy,” Gohar added. “Therefore, we don’t believe in any power-sharing. We will do strong opposition until we get the full mandate, but we are in the position to form governments in Punjab, KP and Centre.”

The PTI has also planned to reach out to rivals such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Awami National Party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and other nationalist parties protesting against alleged rigging in the elections. 

PTI-backed candidates sprung a major surprise, despite a full-fledged military-backed crackdown, by winning the highest number of seats, with 93 out of a total of 264 seats for which results were declared. Nawaz Sharif's PML-N was the largest party with 75 seats and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 54.

Enough numbers: PTI's PM candidate Omar Ayub

The party earlier said it would ally with the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) in the Centre and Punjab. PTI said it would form a coalition government with the Jamaat-i-Islami in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the latter refused to hold talks.

PTI on Thursday nominated the party's secretary general and former federal minister Omar Ayub Khan as its prime ministerial candidate. Omar will compete in a high-stakes contest with PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif as the country witnesses political turmoil amid a fractured mandate. PTI also nominated Mian Aslam as the PTI's nominee for Punjab chief minister and Salar Khan for Balochistan’s top office.

Omar said his first priority would be to free all political prisoners including Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other PTI workers, if he is elected. "PTI will contest and inshallah win the PM election in the National Assembly as we have won with 180 seats in the General Elections 2024," he said.

"PTI as a party will work for strengthening democratic institutions in Pakistan so that the country's economy can be put on a path of positive trajectory and we can initiate our reforms programme to benefit the people of Pakistan," Omar further said on platform X. 

This comes after the main political parties in Pakistan, except Imran Khan's, agreed to try to form a coalition government. These parties include Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P). The PML-N on Tuesday night nominated 72-year-old Shehbaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate instead of Nawaz Sharif.

JUI-F chief says Army responsible for Imran's ouster

PTI further said Imran wanted the US to closely monitor the alleged rigging in the February 8 elections, which was immediately subjected to criticism from other parties as Imran for long had condemned American interference in Pakistan politics and blamed Washington for his ouster, but was now seeking their intervention. The US has patronised and supported dictators and corrupt people everywhere, PTI leader Mohammed Ali Saif said, conveying Imran's message, but Washington now has a chance to “rectify its mistakes”.

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said Thursday that the no-confidence motion that ousted Imran was tabled on the directives of ex-army chief General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa. Rehman said in an interview that he was personally against the no-confidence, but if he had said no, it would have created an impression that he "saved" the PTI founder.

“They [Bajwa and ISI Director-General Faiz Hameed] were in contact with all political parties regarding the no-confidence motion and they told us the way of going about it,” he said, adding that both the PPP and PML-N supported the move. Rehman's party was part of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) with PPP and PML-N that removed Imran.

The JUI-F chief said Hameed told him that he could not “do anything outside the system” — meaning that every move should be made inside the parliament, not on the streets. “When they said that [the anti-PTI] is now in majority, I had to agree with them otherwise it would’ve been said that I helped save Imran Khan,” he added.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Who is Omar Ayub, picked by Imran Khan's PTI as PM candidate? 5 facts about him

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