It took just a few minutes for former Prime Minister and President of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, to break the internet, and quite possibly a world record on Twitter, on Wednesday night.
Nearly half a million users (over 446,000) around the world have interacted with Mr Khan through Spaces, a live audio feature on Twitter. The average number of users listening at once was 165,000. The address was also live streamed on other platforms with thousands of people like Facebook and Instagram.
For PTI supporters inside and outside Pakistan, however, the highlight was being able to convey their support and concern to their leader. “How are you?” asked a worried supporter as he officially started the session, which lasted more than an hour.
When asked about a threat to his life at the rally in Lahore today, Mr Khan said he would attend no matter what.
“Minar-i-Pakistan is a special place because the resolution on Pakistan was presented there. Indian Muslims decided they wanted [a] separate [home]earth. We will also launch our liberation movement there. I believe a record number of people will come,” he said.
The PTI leader said he did not expect such huge crowds to show up in his support after his government was toppled earlier this month. “I expected only five percent of what actually came out. When I saw people I was so happy because I saw a nation emerge…for the first time I saw where we should have been 75 years ago,” he said. he adds.
Calling the protests by overseas Pakistanis “unprecedented”, the former prime minister said conspiracies would no longer work as people had become politically aware.
The role of the army
Amid an FIA crackdown on social media activists leading anti-state campaigns and PML-N allegations of involving bots to run these campaigns, the PTI chief urged his supporters not to say anything against the armed forces of Pakistan. “Never speak against the army. If we hadn’t had the army, we wouldn’t have survived. The army is needed more than Imran Khan,” he said.
He added that Pakistan’s enemies were attacking the army and that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari had undermined the army when they were in power. “What are the Dawn and Memogate leaks?” He asked.
There were other important issues that required urgent attention from the PTI leader. For example, what happens to memes that social media followers have said they’ve had enough of. “I stopped reading newspapers. Social media has taken over, I only watch social media,” Khan replied.
Speaking of the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mr Khan said the ECP rulings were “anti-PTI”. “The day [foreign funding] the cases of all three parties are heard simultaneously, it will be clear that only the PTI has an appropriate funding system,” he added.
In terms of future strategy and choosing elected officials over PTI core workers, the president said that they had distributed tickets to the wrong people and that this time he would prefer ideological workers to elected officials next time. “Last time, I didn’t give out tickets myself. This time I will not approve a single ticket without review,” Khan said.
Responding to a question about 95% of the media opposed to Imran Khan’s government and policies, the PTI leader argued that the country’s media were the freest during his tenure. “The so-called liberals were attacking us over media freedom. We faced most criticism and propaganda. They spread false news against us. Today, all the media are obscuring us… It’s because these mafias are co-opting media owners,” he said.
“I discovered three months ago that journalists and presenters were receiving foreign offers to carry out campaigns against us. But it won’t work in the age of social media, the news will come out and it can’t be stopped,” he said.
Mr Khan said that after the Lahore rally he would also start speaking to international media.
Before concluding the session, Mr Khan said he had never witnessed such a widespread feeling of nationalism among people as he had seen after his government was deposed. “It will make Pakistan a nation…I urge everyone to come to Minar-i-Pakistan tomorrow. We will create history in a historic place.
Posted in Dawn, April 21, 2022