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Islamabad: Pakistan's jailed former prime minister Imran Khan has sought a level playing field for his party in the run-up to the February 8 general elections, saying a lack of fairness in conducting polls would lead to further “instability and uncertainty”. The remarks by Khan, 71, the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, came during an informal media interaction at the Adiala Jail on Saturday.

Internet users faced major interruptions during the virtual event. The cricketer-turned-politician claimed that the PTI is facing obstacles in conducting its election campaign, with restrictions preventing the party from holding public gatherings. He said the PTI candidates “are being harassed and detained” by the authorities to stop them from contesting elections and warned that if fair polls were not conducted then it would lead to further “instability and uncertainty”, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan said the establishment could not “dismantle the party since it has roots in the masses”. He also warned ‘turncoats’ that their politics would end if they parted ways with the PTI. Khan also claimed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) deliberately delayed the matter related to the PTI’s intra-party elections to take “a stern and sudden action” to deprive the political party of its electoral symbol.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on January 13 stripped the PTI of its iconic ‘bat’ election symbol, a move after which those contesting in elections from the party will have to fight as independent candidates. This ruling comes after a continued legal tussle between the ECP and PTI over the electoral symbol and



rejection of intra-party polls. In a reference to attempts by the presidency to bring down the political temperature, Khan said that President Arif Alvi had made efforts to mediate but to no avail.

Speaking about his rival Nawaz Sharif, the PTI founder said that the country would suffer “irreparable loss” if attempts were made to impose an ‘absconder’ on the country. Khan said that Sharif cancelled his Layyah rally because his party did not have the strength to organise a power show. He claimed that the PTI would hold the ‘biggest ever’ gathering even if he was released from jail only a couple of days before the elections. 

"Set me free for just three days before the election and allow me to hold only one public gathering, and everyone will see what we can achieve," The Express Tribune quoted Khan as saying. Talking about his cases in courts, he said despite the disposal of his plea by the Lahore High Court on the rejection of nomination papers, the order on the matter was not released. Imran also raised concerns about the selective application of justice, pointing to his disqualification while Sharif was cleared of his conviction. 

He questioned the delays in hearing appeals against his disqualification, emphasising the perceived lack of democracy in the country. He said that another petition filed by him against violations of human rights was also pending before the Supreme Court for a long time. Khan claimed that there was no rule of law in the country but still, he would not take the law into his own hands, as he was a politician and would “play till the last ball”.




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