Parties wary of PTI protest call

Published April 27, 2014
Activists of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) arrive to attend a protest rally in Peshawar. — Photo by AFP/Dawn File
Activists of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) arrive to attend a protest rally in Peshawar. — Photo by AFP/Dawn File

ISLAMABAD: A plan by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to launch a street campaign from May 11 is being viewed with suspicion by most of the major political parties, and even its coalition partner in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government seems reluctant to join it.

They consider Imran Khan’s decision to launch the campaign against the alleged rigging in the last year’s elections ill-timed and suspect there is a hidden agenda behind it.

Reports that Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) may join the PTI protest is the main reason for the political parties to believe that Imran Khan is doing this “at the behest of undemocratic forces”.

Though some opposition parties, including the PPP and PML-Q, believe that Mr Khan’s complaints about poll rigging are genuine and legitimate, they say the PTI should not go too far in its agitation as it can be detrimental to the democratic set-up and provide an opportunity to undemocratic forces to take advantage of the situation.

The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), a coalition partner of the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has not yet decided to participate in the May 11 rally.

JI Information Secretary Amirul Azeem said they had not received a formal invitation from Mr Khan to participate in the protest campaign.

When asked what would be the JI’s response if Mr Khan sent the invitation to it, he refused to make any comment and said: “We will look into it when the time will come.”

PPP Secretary General Latif Khosa said his party was also a victim of rigging but it did not want to take any step that “may endanger the democratic setup”.

He said the country was already in a state of anarchy and Mr Khan should avoid taking any measure that could compound the situation.

Awami National Party (ANP) Information Secretary Senator Zahid Khan alleged that Mr Khan was making hue and cry over rigging though the PTI itself was the biggest beneficiary of the worst ever rigging in KP. He said Mr Khan was doing this to hide his party’s “bad governance and corruption” in the province.

PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, who is spokesman for co-chairman Asif Zardari, said, “both the PTI and the PAT have publicly expressed unequivocal and unreserved support for the security establishment in its standoff with a section of the media.”

As independent political entities, the two parties had right to choose their line of action “but their joining hands soon after public statements on the issue...raise questions about their motive,” said Mr Babar, quoting the statements of Mr Khan and Dr Qadri in support of the army in the ongoing tussle between a media house and the ISI after an attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir.

PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain said Mr Khan had “legitimate reservations” about the polls and like the PTI, his party also had moved election tribunals and courts to seek vote recount in different constituencies but had received no response. Therefore, he added, Mr Khan had the democratic right to hold peaceful demonstrations.

“His agenda remains to be seen,” he said when asked to comment on reports that Dr Qadri might join the PTI campaign.

PTI Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari said her party was exercising its democratic right to raise voice against rigging.

She rejected the apprehension that the PTI movement could be harmful to the democratic system.

“We don’t want to destabilise democracy. Had we wanted to derail it, we would have done it earlier,” she said.

The purpose of the movement, she pointed out, was to make the government realise that an independent election commission was necessary to ensure free and transparent polls.

She denied reports that the PTI had an understanding with Dr Qadri on the movement and said the PTI had given the protest call and any political party could join it.



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