Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan, addressing supporters as the party's long march resumed from Wazirabad a week after he was attacked, said that the “plan” to assassinate him was first formulated in September which Imran said he had “unearthed in a public rally on September 24”.
The PTI chief also said it was a miracle that so many people survived the attack.
Doubling down on earlier claims, Imran held a senior military officer, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah responsible for the attack and said they had used “religious extremism” as a “cover to shunt off the blame”.
“For anyone harboring any doubts,” Imran added, “you can tell that he had been told to say this when the attacker claimed he had done this alone”.
“The forensic [report] of the container has shown that there were two types of bullet, meaning there were two shooters,” he added, “so the whole plan they had was that [just like] Salman Taseer was killed by a religious extremist and the matter is sorted”.
Imran also hailed Ibtesam – the young man whose quick thinking had saved the former prime minister – for his “heroic effort”. He also announced again that the party will “take lifetime responsibility” for the children of the victim who lost his life during the attack.
“Our march will not end,” vowed Imran as he reiterated his commitment to the establishment of justice.
Continuing his criticism, the PTI chief said that the senior military officer was behind “what they have done to us, to the journalists, and what they did to Arshad Sharif and what they did to Azam Swati”.
“I am the former primer prime minister, the chief of the largest party of Pakistan and I have not been able to register my FIR" because the military officer's name was mentioned, said Imran.
“He is such a man who is above Pakistani law. DG ISPR says ‘it’ll be a disrespect to our military’; the military will be disrespected when it fails to take action on the matter," said Imran.
Supporters converge on Wazirabad
Earlier, a large number of PTI supporters gathered at the site where former premier Imran Khan was attacked in Wazirabad.
The march was kicked off by PTI leader and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He was flanked by other party leaders including Hammad Azhar, Faisal Javed, also among those injured in the attack on Imran, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry among others.
Wazirabad right now! People of Pakistan have replied in huge numbers! #آرہا_ہے_پاکستان pic.twitter.com/C1eEWWpIjV
— PTI (@PTIofficial) November 10, 2022
The party had halted its march following the assassination attempt.
Earlier in the day, senior party leader Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet announced that the PTI will "start the journey from the same place in Wazirabad today where the assassination attempt on Imran Khan was made"
تحریک انصاف کا #حقیقی_آزادی_مارچ آج پھر وزیر آباد کے اسی مقام سے سفر کا آغاز کرے گا جس مقام پر عمران خان پر قاتلانہ حملہ کیا گیا تھا،تحریک انصاف کے کارکنان اس سازش کے خلاف سراپا احتجاج ہوں گے تین بجے ہم جلسہ گاہ ہوں گے عمران خان کا خطاب 430 منٹ پر براہ راست ویڈیو اسکرین پر ہو گا
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) November 10, 2022
He also said that Imran will address the rally via video link at 4:30 pm.
'Party will stand its ground'
Addressing party supporters, Qureshi said today that Imran will address the march’s participants every day via video link and will join them in Rawalpindi, before he announced the party chief will be addressing the crowd shortly.
“Those who attacked the PTI government through conspiracy had thought that the party will dismantle when it will be out of power” he said, adding that the rally in Wazirabad was proof that the people were with the PTI and that the party “will stand its ground”.
Speech by Vice Chairman @SMQureshiPTI at Haqeeqi Azadi March in Wazirabad! #آرہا_ہے_پاکستان pic.twitter.com/Q0mAV0Whj4
— PTI (@PTIofficial) November 10, 2022
Qureshi also said that “political analysts” had expressed reservations that Wazirabad was a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) heartland and that the march may not be successful there. “I ask you to tell me,” Qureshi said to cheering supporters “is this a PML-N heartland or a PTI fort?”
At the outset of the march, PTI leader Hammad Azhar maintained that the long march was “stronger than before” and will continue towards Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Deeming it nature's work, he highlighted that “they” had tried to silence senior journalist Arshad Sharif, but now his truth was evident. He added that “they” tried to torture Azam Swati, but Swati has now become “a symbol of courage across the country”.
“These merciless cowards tried to kill Imran Khan, but today every home has become Imran Khan,” he said.
Speech by @Hammad_Azhar at the start of Haqeeqi Azadi March! #آرہا_ہے_پاکستان pic.twitter.com/7r5TazI1v4
— PTI (@PTIofficial) November 10, 2022
Azhar said the “coward, conspirators must know that the nation is aware now”.
“Azam Swati’s criminals are the whole country’s criminals now. Arshad Sharif’s murderer has killed journalism in the country,” he stated, adding that soon Imran’s attacker will be brought before the courts.
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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi is also reportedly on his way to lead the march.
وائس چیئرمین پی ٹی آئی مخدوم شاہ محمود قریشی حقیقی آزادی مارچ کی قیادت کرنے کے لیے پی ٹی آئی کی سینئر قیادت کے ہمراہ باب القریش لاہور سے وزیر آباد روانہ۔#HaqeeqiAzadiMarch#حقیقی_آزادی_مارچ#امپورٹڈ_حکومت_نامنظور pic.twitter.com/CteaVzM6Zh
— Ali (@alilovepti) November 10, 2022
Meanwhile a long line of vehicles were seen on roads making their way to join the march via Grand Trunk Road.
جی ٹی روڈ پر ہر طرف پاکستان تحریک انصاف کے کارکنان موجود ہیں اس وقت کیونکہ #آرہا_ہے_پاکستان شرکت کرنے #حقیقی_آزادی_مارچ میں pic.twitter.com/XcMPmIpKMg
— PTI Sialkot (@PTIOfficialSKT) November 10, 2022
The long march was halted last week after the party chief sustained bullet wounds to his leg following an armed attack on his container, as he led the ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’ in Wazirabad.
While he recovered from his wounds, the PTI chief had announced that he would not be joining in person but nonetheless said that the party will resume the march "from the place in Wazirabad where I [Imran] and 11 other people were shot, and where Moazzam was martyred,” he had added while citing the name of PTI supporter Moazzam Gondal, who was killed in the attack.
It was later clarified that the march will take off at 2 pm on Thursday (today).
A day earlier, the party had again changed its plans for the long march by splitting it in two.
The first procession will continue from Wazirabad and will be led by PTI Vice Chairperson Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The second rally will depart from Toba Tek Singh on Friday (tomorrow), with the party's secretary general Asad Umar leading it. It will travel from Toba Tek Singh to Jhang and then to Faisalabad.
The two groups are to converge before entering Chakwal.
The announcement for the resumption of the long march came as the country was rattled by protests by PTI supporters who spilled onto the streets in various cities against the assassination attempt at the PTI chief’s life.
PTI ends sit-in
PTI ended the sit-ins on the fourth day from the main roads of Rawalpindi, removed the obstacles and restored the traffic on Murree Road, Airport, Swan Bridge and IJP Road.
Citizens and commuters breathed a sigh of relief as they had faced difficulties since the protesters had set up protest camps on five main highways including Murree Road in Rawalpindi. The main and most used highway was completely blocked from Shamsabad, due to which citizens were facing severe problems.
Those traveling to Islamabad from Murree Road were facing inconvenience while people going to offices and other destinations had been facing traffic jams in large numbers.
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Public and goods transport remained closed for four days due to PTI sit-ins.
Business in the area had come to a virtual standstill on Murree Road and other highways.
Citizens including traders, students, government employees and patients had suffered a great deal from road blockages.
On the other hand, PTI has made the end of the ongoing sit-in on the highway subject to the order of the leadership.
Motorway Police has provided alternative routes for vehicles to Islamabad International Airport.
Syedpur Road, Commercial Market Kuri Road and Old Airport Road remain open for traffic.
According to the traffic police, Main Peshawar Road and Mall Road was also open for traffic, while IJP Road had been closed for all types of traffic towards Islamabad. Alternatively, Main Peshawar Road, Westridge, Chauhar Chowk, Marble Factory Road, Golra Mor, Srinagar Highway were open for traffic.
Meanwhile, educational institutions in Rawalpindi remained closed for the third day today despite district administrations ordering all educational institutions in Islamabad to remain open as all the roads inside the federal capital were open. The district administration has also issued a notification regarding keeping educational institutions open.