ISLAMABAD: Addressing a charged crowd that was all set to storm the ‘red zone’ on Sunday night, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan surprised everyone by saying that he would give the government time to comply with his demands.
He initially began by saying he would camp out on the streets of the capital for a week, but then revised his deadline down to two days after that drew jeers from the crowd.
Mr Khan declared once again that he would not settle for less than the resignation of the prime minister, but then ordered his supporters to launch a civil disobedience movement against the government.
These seemingly irreconcilable demands threw off many, who were confused whether to treat this as a step forward or a step back.
• Wants non-payment of utility bills, taxes • Dr Qadri focuses on economic issues • Govt move to end impasse
But over at Khayaban-i-Suharwardy, the much hyped Inqilab of Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri seemed to have run out of steam, having already issued his own ultimatum to the government on Saturday night.
In an effort to reenergise his supporters, Dr Qadri presented a formula that he promised would fetch the country over Rs4 trillion, which could be spent on the betterment of the common man.
He also challenged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to prove him wrong or his grand plan flawed, at any forum.
Stressing that he wanted to avoid violence and clashes between PTI workers and police, Mr Khan called on all his supporters to stop paying utility bills and taxes, such as income tax and general sales tax, to what he called “this corrupt government”.
|DR Tahirul Qadri in a defiant gesture.—Tanveer Shahzad/White Star|
He took pains to build his argument for the civil disobedience movement. “The prime minister has perfected the art of buying off everything and everyone that comes his way. The PML-N chief has bribed judges, journalists and even tried the same tactics with military generals,” he alleged.
It was difficult to keep up with the PTI chief as he oscillated between two seemingly irreconcilable positions, passionately invoking violent imagery while espousing peaceful means to achieve his party’s main goal: drumming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party out of office.
“I personally want to storm this ‘fake parliament’ and Prime Minister House, hold Nawaz Sharif by the neck and subject him to ruthless accountability. But we believe in a peaceful struggle.”
In the same breath, he had a warning for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. “You have a couple of days left to inform your prime minister that it’s better to leave peacefully, otherwise, my workers will come your way and there will be nothing I can do to stop them.”
Mr Khan also appeared cognizant of consequences of a showdown between party workers and law-enforcers. A conflict could lead to martial law in the country, which we don’t want, he said.
He also repeatedly asked Islamabad’s police not to get in the way and called on the government not to block entryways into the city, as they would not be able to stop the tsunami.
The PAT chairman, who on Friday gave a 48-hour ultimatum — asking for the resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and their cabinets — said the new set-up that he had proposed could generate trillions through austerity measures, tax reforms, revenue generation, elimination of corruption, the exploitation of natural resources in the country, the better utilisation of international funds, Zakat collection and the recovery of the nation’s “looted wealth”.
Both Dr Qadri and Mr Khan have been making periodic announcements over the past couple of days to keep their supporters charged.
In the same vein, Dr Qadri reiterated his pledge to not leave Islamabad until the revolution he had dreamt of had materialised.
He said that even though international barometers had declared that corruption was rife in Pakistan and the growth rate had declined severely, there was still ample potential in the country.
Saying that he had prepared his plans after two years of research in consultation with his experts, the PAT chief claimed that by cutting 50 per cent of the federal and provincial governments’ expenditure, more than Rs7.65 billion could be saved every day.
Quoting a former National Accountability Bureau chairman, he said that the exchequer lost Rs12bn every day due to corruption. “Even if we can control this menace by 50pc, we can save Rs6bn per day,” he said.
Dr Qadri claimed that more than Rs20bn in tax was evaded every day and if the proposed national government made tax reforms and managed to recover even 25pc of the lost money, more than Rs500bn could be collected.
The country, he said, possessed abundant natural resources, which could be exploited to generate income. Different donor agencies roughly gave Rs17bn in grants to Pakistan every year for education, vocational training, health, women welfare, youth and others, he said. But this money was not spent on the poor, rather it went into the pockets of the rulers. “We will end this culture and utilise this money on the welfare of the people.”
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014