Imran Khan Threatens to Replace PTI Candidates Who Fail to Campaign for February 8 Polls

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former prime minister Imran Khan has issued a stern warning to his party candidates to launch their election campaigns peacefully or face losing their tickets to contest the February 8 elections.

Khan, who is incarcerated in Adiala jail on charges of revealing official secrets, said that the tickets of candidates who do not come out for the election campaign from Sunday would be replaced with others. He made these comments while talking to the media persons informally in the Adiala jail courtroom on Wednesday.

The former premier said his party members were not being allowed to hold election campaigns by the caretaker government and the security agencies. He alleged that they were facing harassment, intimidation and arrests. He demanded that the elections should be held on February 8 anyway, despite the calls for postponement by some opposition parties.

Khan also reiterated his claim that he was ousted from power in March 2022 as part of a US conspiracy backed by the powerful military establishment. He said that he had received a diplomatic cable, known as a cipher, from the former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Asad Majeed, which contained details of a meeting between US and Pakistani officials in Washington. He said that the cipher revealed that the US had offered Pakistan various incentives, including debt relief and trade concessions, in exchange for removing him from office.

He said that the former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had found the cipher by chance and brought it to his notice. He said that the cipher was intended for the former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa, who had hired Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, to tweet against him. He alleged that Haqqani was paid $35,000 by Bajwa to portray him as anti-American and pro-Taliban.

Khan said that he had waved the cipher at a public rally to expose the US plot, but he had never disclosed its full contents. He challenged the validity of the cipher case against him and Qureshi, saying that they had not compromised the state secrets or the cipher security system. He said that the cipher was only a text document and not a code that could be used to decrypt other secret communications. He said that the ISI had also concluded that the leak of the cipher did not pose any threat to Pakistan’s encryption system.

Meanwhile, PTI senior leader Qureshi said that he wanted to thank senior politician Javed Hashmi for speaking the truth and withdrawing from the election race in favour of PTI-backed Aamir Dogar, who will contest the February 8 polls from the NA-149 constituency. He said that Hashmi had shown his loyalty to the PTI and Imran Khan by throwing his political weight behind them. He said that Hashmi had also confirmed that the cipher was only for the secretary to see and that the National Security Committee (NSC) had accepted political interference in the matter.

Qureshi said that the PTI would contest the elections without its iconic ‘bat’ symbol, which was taken away by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the party’s alliance with PTI-Nazriati collapsed. He said that the PTI-Nazriati had betrayed the PTI by backing out of the alliance at the last moment. He said that the PTI candidates would run with different symbols, but they would still have the support of the masses. He expressed confidence that the PTI would emerge victorious in the elections and form the next government.

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