Imran threatens nationwide shutdown

Published December 1, 2014
ISLAMABAD: A view of the massive PTI rally held here on Sunday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: A view of the massive PTI rally held here on Sunday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Challeng­ing the government to return to the negotiating table, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan threatened to “shut down the country” if his demands were not met.

Addressing a massive gathering in the heart of the capital on Sunday, Mr Khan unveiled what he had been referring to as his ‘Plan C’. He said that if the government did not restart talks with his party, sort out the setting up of a judicial commission to investigate allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections and complete the probe within four to six weeks, he would “make it impossible for [Nawaz Sharif] to run the government”.

Laying out his plan, Mr Khan said that he would shut down Lahore on Dec 4, Faisalabad on Dec 8, Karachi on Dec 12, and would “paralyse the whole country” on Dec 16. “If the government remains obstinate, they may not be able to bear what I do next,” he said, threatening the government with potentially hostile measures in the same breath as offering them the option of talks.


‘Plan C’ to be launched from Lahore on Dec 4


Admitting that “earlier talks failed because I insisted on the resignation of the prime minister”, Mr Khan said that the modalities of the proposed judicial commission and joint investigation team, including officials from intelligence agencies, had been finalised.

“Now I say, let the prime minister stay. But PTI will continue its sit-in until the judicial commission concludes its inquiry,” he said.

Reiterating that he would not back down unless the government accepted his party’s demands for a fair and detailed probe of the results of the last general elections, he repeated allegations against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and retired Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, who he accused of playing a key role in manipulating the results.

JUI-F factor

A countrywide strike by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) took its toll on attendance at the rally. Even though the PTI media wing had announced that Imran Khan would address the rally at 4pm, he had to put off his speech until around 9pm because many workers were held up on the way to Islamabad. Roadblocks and sit-ins held to protest the killing of JUI-F Sindh leader Khalid Soomro delayed supporters heading to Islamabad via the M1 Motorway and other major roads.

Mr Khan arrived in D-Chowk on schedule, around 2.15pm. “We have decided that Mr Khan will make his speech between 5pm and 6pm. The JUI-F road blocks definitely sent shivers down the party leadership’s spine. We were expecting a major chunk of PTI workers from KP,” a senior PIT office-bearer told Dawn. “Thank God though, they finally made it to D-Chowk,” he added.

Sights and sounds

Even though the venue was littered with large dirt mounds and construction material from the metro bus project and containers lined the sides, party workers came in large numbers to attend the rally.

Because of the restricted entry points, and tight security, it took quite some time before one could make it into the venue. Eventually though, the venue resembled the kind of colourful gathering that has become a signature for PTI. Women sporting party colours, sitting in a specially designated enclosure, and even the elderly got into the act, chanting party slogans and cheering.

DJ Butt, who provides the musical accompaniment for most of Mr Khan’s speeches, was on hand to entertain the multitudes that had gathered on a chilly Sunday evening in the capital. He would accentuate every pause and prompt people to break out in dance with his signature repertoire of party anthems and patriotic songs.

Folk singer Attaullah Esakhelvi, Salman Ahmed of Junoon fame and Punjabi pop star Abrarul Haq made special appearances and performed for the audience.

Mr Khan’s idealism also seemed to strike a chord with his audience. Tariq, a retired military officer from Quetta, told Dawn that while Mr Khan might not be able to remove the PML-N government, but his pressure “can force the government to change its style of governance”. Tariq also claimed that most retired military personnel supported the PTI.

Arsalan Baig, a student from Rawalpindi city, told Dawn that apart from his father, everyone in his family supported PTI and had turned out for the rally.

Sumiya, who had brought her two daughters to attend the rally, said she believed Mr Khan was the only leader who could change the country for the better.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2014

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