Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has reportedly fine-tuned a strategy to galvanise grassroots supporters for a Dharna (long sit-in) starting 30 October in the event that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not accede to his demand: accept the opposition’s joint terms of reference on Panama papers or else resign.
This was revealed to Business Recorder in background discussions with senior PTI leaders. After a lukewarm response from opposition political parties particularly Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) which has a proven record of being able to galvanise its workers for a sit-in for as long as three months Imran Khan has issued strict instructions to all PTI members of national and provincial assemblies to ensure participation of dedicated workers who can stay till the goal is achieved.
PTI leaders acknowledged that PAT had a track record of standing by their leader, Tahirul Qadri, for months at considerable inconvenience, and dispersing only when so instructed, a trend not visible in PTI grassroots supporters; however they argued that Imran Khan’s strategy would mobilise due hard supporters and the desired result would be achieved.
PTI had given special tasks to its youth from Khyber Pakhtukhwa, Karachi and Lahore, to ensure closure of main highways and markets in Islamabad, sources further added. The lawyer wing of the party has been given directives by Imran Khan to be ready to provide prompt legal assistance to party stalwarts as the government is expected to begin its crackdown on PTI leadership ahead of the October 30 protests.
PTI Deputy Secretary General Murad Saeed told Business Recorder that the party was fully prepared for a head-on collision with the government but added that the party had formulated a comprehensive plan to lockdown the federal capital which might be extended to other cities, if needed.
He warned the government that “it must not think that it is the PTI of 2014 as we have trained our workers, who are not only capable of resisting the government’s use of force, but also have the capacity to stay as long as Imran Khan wants them there”. “We’ve proved our strength by staging a 126-day-long sit-in in 2014, and now we have spent more than 126 days training our workers in case of another such long sit-in against the government, and I don’t think, this time the government can sustain the pressure,” he added.
He said PTI workers from all over the country would reach Islamabad on October 30, adding “they all know it is now or never, so it is incumbent upon all the workers to stand by their leader unless Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presents himself for accountability”.
“We have given the government a deadline of October 30, and any further reluctance by the government to start the accountability process would lead to lockdown of not only Islamabad but the whole country if needed,” Murad Saeed said.
“The government must keep in mind that we are not going to give up on Panama leaks issue, as there should be accountability and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must present himself for accountability,” he added. When contacted, PAT spokesman Ghulam Ali said that both the parties were in contact as they were struggling for a common agenda – eradication of corruption and accountability.
He dispelled the impression that Qadri and Imran had any differences, saying there was enough time till October 30. “Dr Qadri is busy these days as he wants the international community to take notice of the Model Town massacre, and leaders of the parties will meet again shortly where it will be decided whether to go hand in hand or take a solo flight,” he added.
Imran Khan has reportedly sent Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League, PTI Secretary General Jehangir Khan Tareen and PTI Punjab President Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar to persuade PAT chief to join them on October 30. However, Qadri reportedly left for Canada on some personal business without any meeting with the PTI delegation. He will be back on October 21 in London and there are reports that he would meet with Chaudhary Sarwar as he is already staying there.