He invited the PTI members and people from all over the country to be part of what he termed “this historical accountability movement to rid the country of corruption and a corrupt elite who are hell-bent upon maintaining the status quo”.
While criticising all those who were advising him to wait until the 2018 general election, the PTI chief expressed concern about divisions within his party’s ranks.
“Besides holding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accountable for looting this country, this march is also a test case for all those PTI leaders and workers who claim to be diehard followers of its ideology,” he said, repeatedly calling for unity in the party.
Without naming anyone, Imran Khan called a few media houses, journalists, businessmen and politicians “shameless” for criticising his efforts aimed at mobilising people against what he termed a system which only served the privileged. He repeated his allegations against the Election Commission of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau, Federal Board of Revenue and State Bank for not doing enough after the Panama Papers leaks about offshore holdings.
“Do you still need evidence in the presence of the Panama Papers leaks which clearly show that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family have laundered money to set up offshore companies and bought properties abroad,” he asked while addressing the heads of these institutions.
But in the same breath, Mr Khan said he wasn’t hopeful of any positive response from these institutions because they only served the interests of the people in power.
He said the prime minister always found people who were willing to sell their conscience and referred to the heads of the PTV and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority as well as a former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board who still holds a powerful position at the organisation.
Besides, the PTI chief exhorted second-tier PML-N leaders and workers to wake up against the “dynastic politics” of their leadership. “At times, I feel pity for them [PML-N workers] because a new generation of the Sharif family is ready to rule them both at the centre and in Punjab and they will continue to serve them.”
Mr Khan was particularly harsh on the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, for what he termed occupying the Prime Minister Office without holding any public office or party position.
Towards the end of his speech, he warned the PML-N workers whom he called ‘Gullu Butts’ and jokers to stay away from his rally, warning that otherwise they would be paid back in the same coin.
Mr Khan asked the Punjab police to stay neutral and not create any problem for the PTI workers. “Otherwise, I myself will lead protest marches in front of the police stations” where his party’s workers would be detained, he warned.
Meanwhile, the PTI continues to suffer from infighting. Since the postponement of party elections early this year, many within the PTI are not happy over the way its affairs are being managed.
In April, Mr Khan announced postponement of the party elections, saying workers needed to channel their energy towards the accountability movement against the prime minister following the revelations made in the Panama Papers.
However, for many PTI insiders and detractors, it was the serious nature of differences among the top party leaders which forced Mr Khan to delay the elections.
Of late, PTI’s additional secretary general Saifullah Niazi has resigned from the post. Talking to Dawn, PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq said he was unaware of the cause of the resignation. “Yes, Mr Niazi has resigned, but the party chairman has yet to accept it,” he said.
However, according to insiders, Mr Niazi wasn’t happy with the party’s existing hierarchy and management. They said that in the absence of the party constitution, it was being run through consultations in which people like Mr Niazi were ignored. The PTI is currently in the process of formulating its new constitution.
“Differences between Mr Niazi and Jahangir Khan Tareen, the secretary general, are an open secret now and may have become the reason of his resignation,” a PTI leader said.
Mr Niazi was not available to comment on the issue.
Only last week, the party dissolved its youth, women, labour and other wings.
Some in the party are of the view that Mr Tareen is behind the dissolution of the wings because he wants to bring in people of his choice.
However, according to Mr Haq, the wings at the central level have been dissolved to make them more active at the provincial and regional levels.
During Mr Khan’s speech, members of the dissolved youth wing raised slogans for its revival. They also submitted a resolution to the chairman’s office, seeking reversal of the secretary general’s dissolution order.