LAHORE: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday alleged that Imran Khan wants to unleash a "civil war" in the country, a day after the ousted premier asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and fresh elections.
Khan (69), the cricketer-turned politician, was removed from power through a no-confidence vote in parliament by the Opposition parties last month. "Imran Niazi wants to initiate a civil war in the country. But he is mistaken. The nation will never forgive him [for the sin] and will hold him by the collar," Prime Minister Shehbaz said on Monday, while addressing questions from the press.
When asked if the government would call in the army to stop Khan's long march, Shehbaz said that a decision would be taken if and when needed.
Addressing a press conference after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's core committee meeting in Peshawar on Sunday, Khan said the march would convert into a sit-in and continue until his demands are accepted. "The main demands for the march to the capital were the immediate dissolution of the National Assembly and a date for the next general election," he said during the press conference.
Khan said he wants people from all walks of life to participate in the march to raise clamour against his removal as the prime minister which he called as "illegal".
"In its tenure of nearly 4 years, the PTI govt took loans worth Rs 20,000 billion, which was an increase of 80 per cent in the loans taken since 1947. Do they have any single project to show for these loans? People want answers," the Prime Minister said in a tweet targeting Khan.
After his removal, Khan had embarked on a whirlwind tour of the major cities and addressed big rallies to sell his theory of removal, apparently convincing his support base that he was a victim and should be brought back to power with a clear mandate to run the country and end its problems.
Khan has accused the US of conspiring to topple his elected government, citing communication from the country's ambassador in Washington. The US government has bluntly denied the allegations multiple times.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Sunday warned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of action if its protesters were to march towards Islamabad with the "intent to cause anarchy".
Addressing a press conference in Bahawalpur in Punjab province, Sanaullah said the government and its allies were mandated to decide about the line of action against the PTI's planned long march to Islamabad. "I don't know what decision the leaders of the coalition government will take, but if they decide [to go for] action, then we will not allow protesters to even come out of their homes," the minister told the media.
The interior minister was also dismissive of the PTI's march, saying that it would not be much of a bother for the government.