Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that ongoing efforts to pressure his political party, and topple the government are being funded by foreign powers who are looking to influence the country's foreign policy.
The premier's remarks came during his address at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) “historic gathering” at Parade Ground in Islamabad on Sunday as thousands of party workers assembled in the federal capital from all over the country to show support to the leader by holding a “million-man” rally ahead of the no-confidence vote.
"When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to pursue an independent foreign policy, other political parties ran a campaign against him and created an atmosphere that resembles the one today," said Khan towards the end of his speech.
"Foreign powers have always been interfering in Pakistan’s politics. I want to inform these powers that be that this is not 1971 — the time has changed.
"Some of our people are being used without knowing the complete truth, while others are fully involved in this conspiracy."
His address follows that of other PTI leaders who took turns to speak to the crowd gathered at the rally.
“Pakistan was formed based on the idea of an Islamic welfare state,” said the premier.
“People ask me why I talk about religion in my speeches. They ask me why I use religion for politics. When I made my party 25 years ago, I came to politics so that we can establish an Islamic welfare state.”
Khan, who has been under pressure due to the opposition’s no-confidence motion, said there is an external hand in this whole situation but “I will take about it later”.
“I want to firstly thank you all for coming here. People have come to Islamabad from all parts of Pakistan on my call.”
Khan added that his government has made efforts to uplift people out of poverty, claiming that no other government in the past has invested so much to uplift the poor segments.
“We decreased the price of petrol and diesel despite increases in the international market. We reduced electricity tariff because our tax collection increased.
“I promise you — as we keep increasing our tax collection, we will keep reinvesting it in the people.
"Poor countries are not poor because they don't have resources. They are poor because their system cannot hold the rich accountable. Their systems give them NRO.
"All this drama is to see if I give them (the opposition leaders) a NRO. I will never forgive them."
"Musharraf pushed the country into crisis by giving NRO to these corrupt leaders just to save his government. Whether I lose my government or my life, I will never them NRO," he said.
Talking about his team's performance, Khan said: "I was criticised for not imposing a complete lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. The entire world acknowledged that the steps Pakistan took were commendable because they saved our economy.
"Pakistan's textile industry is growing. They cannot find labor anymore because of the growth. We have given a new package to small and medium industries. This growth will lead to more tax collection, which I will spend on the people.
"The government invested record money in its agriculture sector. As a result, the country produced bumper crops in wheat, rice, sugar, and potato."
He said that the PTI government’s reforms have also created new jobs in garments, textile, and construction industries that have led to an economic boom.
The PM added that those who have ruled in the past 30 years did nothing to solve Pakistan's most basic problems, like the scarcity of water, which is becoming a major crisis especially in urban areas.
Speaking of his party's achievements, he said the PTI government started nine new small and large dams, some of which will be completed by 2025, and will help store enough water for cheap electricity, agriculture, and daily use. He also said the Diamer-Bhasha Dam will be completed in 2028, and will double the country's water level.
PM Imran said he was willing to have an open dialogue with economic experts to compare the steps taken by his government and those in the past for the advancement of the country.
"My team led negotiations for three years to revive the Reko Diq project. I want to congratulate you that the same company is again investing billions of dollars in Pakistan in the same project."
Last week, the premier had said that he would "surprise" the opposition a day before the no-confidence motion session, adding that he is yet to lay his cards on the table.
Earlier today the PTI workers from across the country throng Islamabad’s parade ground to attend the party rally, as Prime Minister Imran Khan – who is facing the united opposition’s no-confidence motion in parliament – urges them to reach early for the “historic power show”.
In a message, the premier had urged the party workers to reach the destination early to avoid traffic. According to the Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, PM Imran would address the public gathering around 5-5:30 pm.
Workers and leaders of PTI began reaching the capital as the party hosts it's Amr Bil Maroof (enjoin the good) public meeting in response to the opposition's protests.
PM Imran appealed to supporters to reach the venue early as there were fears of blockades. "I'm scared you may not be able to reach on time because of this. This is Pakistan's war, this is Pakistan's future war. God willing, we will make history in Pakistan today," he added.
The government and the opposition have drawn the battle lines as both organises the rallies in the federal capital ahead of the day of the no-trust vote to prove their public popularity.
The PTI has claimed that as many as “one million people” would turn up in today’s rally, which had prompted the opposition to stage a counter-protest in the capital city. In order to keep the peace, the interior ministry has called in more troops of the Frontier Corps and Rangers to assist the capital administration. Moreover, police personnel from Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Punjab have also been called in to assist the Islamabad cops.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Saturday warned the opposition parties against staging a sit-in in the federal capital while reiterating that no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands. Furthermore, he assured that all the lawmakers would be provided security. He had also said that voting on the no-trust motion would likely be held on April 4.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said: "A brave nation needed a brave leader. PM Imran will never let the nation bow down. In a video message, he urged citizens to attend the "historic rally".
According to Rashid, as many as 15,000 security personnel – including 2,000 Rangers and FC forces – have been called in Islamabad to assist the capital administration in maintaining order. Such forces have also been deployed in parliament lodges.
“The government has decided to hand over the Parliament House, MNA Lodges, and old MNA House to Rangers and the FC on the day the National Assembly is to vote on the no-confidence motion,” he said in a press conference on March 11.
In media talks, the interior minister has also hinted at imposing Article 245 of the Constitution to call in the army if the situation arises. However, he has hoped the circumstances would not come to such a point.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday shared the Islamabad High Court order, which read that the IHC has directed the capital city administration to keep the roads open in any case.
Fawad said that at present all media of Pakistan is available for the coverage of the rally in the parade ground. "More than 43 representatives of international media will be present for the coverage," he said in a series of tweets.
Moreover, he urged all party workers to facilitate media workers, reporters and staff in their work. "The world has to see this great meeting through the eyes of media and all media channels and workers are on important for us. This is also the beauty of democracy that we also tolerate criticism."
Moreover, the Islamabad police in a tweet provided route directions for participants making their way to the venue.
"All roads are open in Islamabad . Entry and exit are clear. However only srinagar highway is closed at H9 area but alternate routes are open . Thanks you . Sorry for inconvenience," the Islamabad deputy commissioner said in a tweet.