WASHINGTON: “Imran will return, with more powers,” chanted a small group of PTI supporters as they gathered outside the Brookfield Plaza in Northern Virginia to protest former prime minister Imran Khan’s exit.
“Unacceptable, unacceptable,” they chanted when one of the journalists covering the event asked: “What’s unacceptable?” “This about-turn, return to the old Pakistan of corruption and nepotism,” one of them responded.
This was a spontaneous protest of PTI supporters who came with party flags to protest but still did not know what to say and how to say it. There were no posters, no banners, no placards. Just anger and frustration.
“The court is wrong and the forces that backed the move against Khan are wrong too,” said Khalid Tanveer, a shop owner and one of the first in the area to join PTI.
Johnny Bashir, PTI’s local head, said he had no doubt “Imran will return, with new vigor and a new team. A team which will not include turncoats and cowards.”
Rana Saadat, another PTI officer-bearer, declared: “Pakistani-Americans are solidly behind Imran Khan. We will march with him to another convincing win.”
There’s some truth to his claim. Imran Khan is popular among Pakistani-Americans. His first rally in Washington DC drew a huge crowd, larger than any before.
And they always come forward when PTI asks for donations, for a charity or for the party itself. So, their favourite leader’s unceremonious exit is extremely upsetting for them.
But they are also careful while talking about Imran Khan’s claim of a “foreign conspiracy” behind the move to unseat him. They do not want to blame America.
“We are Pakistanis, and we are Americans too,” said Imran Butt, another PTI office-bearer. “We love both. So, we cannot condemn either.”
“No, do not blame America,” said Tanveer. “The conspirators are sitting in Pakistan. The traitors are in Pakistan.”
“This country has given us stability and respect. We love America,” said Imran Shahid, another shop owner and Imran’s supporter.
One obvious change in their attitude was in how they address Imran. When he was the prime minister, he was “Khan Saheb.” Now, they are back to “Imran,” as they called him with affection before the elevation.
One supporter urged “whistle-blowers in Pakistan to come forward and tell us how it happened. We will go after those who committed this treachery.”
Bashir, the local PTI head, claimed “widespread protests in Pakistan would force the new government to hold elections in seven months. And then we shall return with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.”
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2022