PM Imran to kick off ‘pre-poll’ roadshow

Published February 8, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a ceremony in Islamabad on January 25. — Photo via PM Imran's Instagram
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a ceremony in Islamabad on January 25. — Photo via PM Imran's Instagram

• Weekly cabinet meeting postponed as PM visits Nushki today
• Set to visit Russia this month

ISLAMABAD: As the two major opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — moved to bury the hatchet for achieving their common goal of sending the government packing, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday decided to kick off a mass-contact campaign in which he will hold public meetings across the country.

According to the federal minister for information, the prime minister will visit Nushki in Balochistan on Tuesday and therefore there will be no weekly federal cabinet meeting on the day.

Separately, the prime minister will hold public gatherings in different parts of the country to mobilise workers and voters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for upcoming local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [second phase] and in Punjab expected to be held in May, the information minister explained.

The timing of the PM’s public mobilisation campaign is significant not only in view of the planned long marches by opposition parties against inflation but also after the ruling PTI faced a setback in the first phase of LG polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is believed that Mr Khan also wanted better results in Punjab besides averting the repeat performance of the ruling party in KP.

Asked if appearance of the PM in LG election’s constituencies is not a violation of the elections’ code of conduct, federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the public meetings would be held before the LG elections schedule announcement.

“In that case it will not be any violation,” he added. He categorically said the PTI’s mass contact campaign had nothing to do with the opposition’s anti-government demonstrations, as it was “solely being launched in connection with upcoming LG elections in KP [second phase] and Punjab”.

It is believed that the PM’s decision may help the government to counter joint opposition’s renewed fervour that had been lacking since the PPP had parted ways from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in April 2021. Since the PPP had recently announced it would launch a long march against inflation on Feb 27 and the PDM had planned its long march against the government for March 23, it is expected that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and other PDM member parties may also join the anti-PTI regime march in the federal capital.

“Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has decided to launch mass-contact campaign to mobilize the party at grassroots level,” said Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib in a press conference on Monday. He said the decision to launch mass-contact drive was taken in the [PTI’s] Central Executive Committee meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The information minister said Mr Khan would himself lead the mass-contact campaign on the desire of PTI parliamentarians who wanted him to ‘directly inform the masses’ about mega initiatives and priorities of the party. “According to the plan, PM Imran Khan would address large public gatherings to be arranged across the country,” he said.

Mr Habib said the provincial presidents had been asked to arrange party conventions, as it was their responsibility to mobilize party at the grassroots level. “It was only the PTI which had staged largest public meetings in the country,” he recalled.

While the PTI has not announced the schedule of the PM’s public meetings, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that the first public meeting to be addressed by the PM would be held at Mandi Bahauddin, followed by public gatherings in Vehari, Sukkur and tribal districts of KP. He said exact dates of the public meetings would be disclosed later.

Earlier, Mr Habib said the prime minister would be in Faisalabad on Feb 9 to launch the health card scheme to provide free medical treatment of up to 1 million to the masses. He said the scheme had already been launched in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.

By March 31, he said, the entire population of Punjab would be covered under the flagship ‘health card’ initiative for which Rs450 billion was allocated by the provincial government.

Divulging other details of the PTI’s CEC meeting, the minister said all the presidents of the party’s provincial units presented their reports on party’s reorganization, as they had been directed by the premier to complete the process at district level by Feb 15.

Mr Habib said the party had notified its Permanent Parliamentary Board to look after matters pertaining to the upcoming local government elections in different provinces.

Lashing out at the critics of the visit, the minister said national interest should be given preference over personal interests. Those propagating against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) needed to know that the mega project was in full swing, he said. “You will soon see that the fruits of CPEC will transfer to the common man,” he remarked.

Russia visit planned

It was also informed in the PTI’s CEC that Prime Minister Khan had accepted an invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and would pay an official visit to Russia soon. It will be the first official visit of a Pakistani PM to Russia in 23 years.

Earlier in a statement on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the PM would visit Moscow this month on the invitation of President Putin. He was quoted as saying that “Pakistan’s relations with Russia were on a positive trajectory”.

Accountability

While referring to the reconciliation of two major opposition parties, Mr Habib said they ‘united’ once again to stop the government from retrieving the looted wealth stashed in other countries. “The ongoing accountability process will go unhindered as the opposition cannot blackmail the government,” he maintained.

In reply to a query, the minister said the oppositions’ conspiracies and nefarious designs posed no threat to the government. “We are not afraid of their resignations, no confidence motion and long marches,” he asserted. He also came hard on PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif for laundering money through telegraphic transfers. He then criticised ex-president Asif Ali Zardari for laundering money through fake accounts.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2022

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