Imran’s interlude dampens march momentum

Aug 17 2014

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PAT workers wash themselves at a temporary water supply system set up at the sit-in site in Islamabad. — Online
PAT workers wash themselves at a temporary water supply system set up at the sit-in site in Islamabad. — Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘Azadi March’ also appears to be azaad of any planning and forward thinking. This was confirmed within hours of its chief Imran Khan’s arrival at ground zero – late by over a day – where he announced that the sit-in would start at three in the afternoon, after everyone had rested.

Abandoning his party workers on Kashmir Highway and leaving behind dozens of flabbergasted media people, Khan and his entire leadership then disappeared to sleep comfortably in their luxurious homes.

This happened around five in the morning, just a couple of hours after Khan had tweeted that “I will spend night with my galvanised supporters on streets of ISB.”

At the same time, he had used news channels to tell his party workers to stay at Serena Chowk (where the PTI rally is being held) as he was on his way.

But his resolve lasted less than two hours.

“We will gather here again at 3pm to start the next phase of our long march and we will not go back until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns,” Mr Khan made the announcement, conveniently ignoring the fact that his followers – especially those who had come from far-flung areas – had no place to go and had to spend the rest of the night on Kashmir Highway.

On the other hand, the party leadership, which is staunchly against the badshahat (fiefdom) of the Sharifs, went back home - Javed Hashmi and Chairman Imran Khan are said to have sped away to Bani Gala to catch up on their sleep. Both party leaders have their residences in this scenic and upscale neighbourhood in the suburbs of Islamabad.

Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and member of the National Assembly Asad Umer from Islamabad found comfort in their apartments in an upscale residential building in F-10, overlooking Islamabad’s largest park.

Party General Secretary Jahangir Tareen is said to have retreated to his house in F-6 while the official spokesperson for the party and chairman, Dr Shireen Mazari, also lives nearby.

Chief Minister KP Pervez Khattak and his entire cabinet were apparently lodging in KPK House, opposite the Marriott Hotel. Shafqat Mahmood, the party MNA from Lahore, stayed at the Parliament Lodges.

It proved impossible to contact these people on their cell phones to confirm where they spent the night and why the entire leadership felt the need for a 10-hour break from 5am to 3pm.

But the decision had ensured that by Saturday morning, the PTI was being trashed by television channels, on social media and in conversations across the country.

Even anchors, who had spent the last two days predicting Sharif’s political demise or waxing lyrical over Khan’s street power, appeared to have turned on the PTI.

Fauzia Kasuri, a senior PTI leader, agreed that even if Mr Khan needed rest, other party leaders should have stayed put. “It wasn’t a wise move to leave the party workers in the middle of nowhere,” she added before hastening to explain that she was at the hospital last night. She said that she didn’t know who had made the decision.

A PTI official claimed that the proposal ‘to take a break’ was floated by the party chairman and the vice chairman and the others simply endorsed it.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014