ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan threatened on Saturday his party would launch an unprecedented protest campaign ahead of general elections if a partial caretaker set-up was installed, saying the PTI had not yet been consulted about the nomination of a caretaker prime minister.

Addressing a news conference here at PTI central office, Khan said that free and fair general elections would guarantee a much needed change in the country. He reiterated his demand that President Asif Ali Zardari should immediately resign, as under him holding of free and fair elections was almost impossible.

He however said that when the PTI tried to build up pressure for his removal, the Pakistan Muslim League-N intervened to rescue Zardari.

“The PML-N has once again come to the rescue of the president. At a time when the people were staging a sit-in in front of the Parliament House, Nawaz Sharif was gathering forces of status-quo to counter the people’s march, saying that if Zardari resigned, the PPP would elect a new president.”

Khan asked the former premier why his party launched go-Zardari-go campaign on October 28 last year in a public meeting in Lahore, and why the same party reverted from its earlier stance. “Since the PTI has gathered a huge following among the public, the PPP and PML-N, and other forces of status-quo have joined hands to keep that status quo intact. But now the people of Pakistan would foil all conspiracies being hatched against them,” he maintained.

The cricketer-turned-politician further said the federal and Punjab governments were trying to purchase votes by dolling out a huge sum in the name of development funds to its lawmakers and even candidates. He warned that if the election commission did not intervene, such a practice might incite a major political disaster.

Referring to the long march taken out by Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, Khan said it was the first step towards a true change through the ballot and the next elections would prove that a major change was coming to Pakistan.

“The forces of status-quo claim that the long march has failed. Actually, this was the first step towards success as thousands of people took to the roads to bring about a change. Over 90 per cent people want a change in Pakistan as reflected by a recent poll conducted by a US firm,” he added.

Asked whether the PTI would go for an electoral alliance with Dr Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Khan said it was yet to be decided. “We will decide over the matter once the elections are announced.”

The PTI, he said, did not participate in the long march because it always resisted any unconstitutional move. He said that change was in the offing and it would come through the force of ballot.

Khan said he felt that the nation had tolerated the incumbent government for more than four years and the ruling PPP should not be made a martyr when the government was only two months away from completing its five-year tenure.

In response to a media query, Khan made clear that his party was strong enough to go it alone rather than reaching alliances with any government party.

He however urged the election commission of Pakistan to take notice of the use of development funds for political purposes as after the allocation of development funds to MNAs and MPAs, now the ruling party was dolling out funds to its candidates for the upcoming elections.

To a question about the agreement signed between the government and Dr Tahirul Qadri, Khan said there were some good points in the agreement but the question was who would implement it as there was no constitutional cover for such changes.

He said that a strong election commission and impartial caretaker prime minister were a must for free and fair elections, threatening that if the coming elections were not held under a neutral umpire that would be disastrous for the country.

Referring to the assassination of Kamran Faisal, a NAB official probing the Rental Power Plants case, Khan called on Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take a suo motu notice and get the matter investigated under the apex court supervision.

Khan said the demands of the TMQ were similar to those of the PTI; however, the approach to get the issues resolved was different, as the PTI wanted a change through the ballot while the TMQ opted to stage a long march.