Imran says ready to ‘forgive attackers’

LAHORE (Agencies): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said Saturday that he is ready to “forgive” those who had orchestrated an “attack” against him — in November last year — as he launched the election campaign in two provinces — Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Khan was shot in the legs on November 3 as he waved to crowds from a truck-mounted container while leading a protest march to Islamabad to pressure the government into announcing an early election. The rally was cut short in Rawalpindi, where Khan announced his plan of dissolving the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies — which materialised last month.

The PTI chief — whose government was overthrown in April last year — had blamed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a military officer for being involved in the alleged assassination plot. Ever since his ouster, the PTI chief has kept criticising the military, the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government, and other institutions for being involved in an alleged plot to remove his party from power.

But toning down his rhetoric in a speech to workers via video link, the deposed prime minister — who has called incumbent rulers “dacoits” —said he was ready to “mend fences with everyone”. Sharing his willingness to negotiate, Khan said that a politician talks to everyone; however, he spoke against an agreement with those who steal the country’s money.

“General Bajwa asked to give them NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]. Who am I to forgive them for stealing people’s money?” the former prime minister asked. But he then went on and said he is “ready to talk to everyone”. Comparing himself to former South African president Nelson Mandela, Khan said he knows all those involved in the assassination attack against him but is ready to forgive them.

“Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but he forgave everyone,” he said. Considering the country’s situation at present, the politician insisted on unity and stressed the need for reforming the judiciary. Speaking to his party workers and the nation, Khan reiterated that fresh elections are the sole solution to the prevailing crisis being faced by the country. Lauding the Supreme Court, the deposed prime minister said that the apex court took action as the governors and the Election Commission of Pakistan did not announce a date for the general elections in Punjab and KP.

“74 cases have been registered against me so far,” Khan said, adding that the establishment had asked his party workers and leaders to join the PML-N as they had marked a cross on him. Stressing the need for fresh elections, Khan said that instability would not end until a public-mandated government is elected in the country.

“After the Supreme Court verdict, I was sure that they would conduct general elections. Polls are the first step towards getting out of this quagmire,” he said adding that political stability will come from elections and economic stability will follow. People’s confidence, Khan said, will increase when a government comes into power with a public mandate.