Imran Khan invokes Mujibur Rehman parallel as PTI unsure of march destination

Published November 2, 2022
Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan (C) addresses his supporters during an anti-government march towards capital Islamabad, demanding early elections, in Gujranwala on November 1, 2022. — AFP
Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan (C) addresses his supporters during an anti-government march towards capital Islamabad, demanding early elections, in Gujranwala on November 1, 2022. — AFP

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday compared his struggle for ‘real freedom’ with that of Awami League chief Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and reminded that the country had split into two after a political party with a legitimate political mandate was denied its right to rule.

The former premier, whose long march started on Friday, made these remarks while addressing party supporters in Gujranwala. On its fifth day, the march still had not moved beyond Gujranwala, falling way behind its schedule.

In his address to the participants, the PTI chairman said the Awami League was denied its “electoral mandate” which resulted in the separation of the eastern half of the country.

“A shrewd politician [ZA Bhutto], in his greed for power, set the armed forces against the then largest party [Awami League], which had won elections, causing the dismemberment of the country.”

Read: What does Imran Khan want to achieve by marching on Islamabad?

Comparing the PTI with Awami League, Imran Khan said his party was the “largest and sole federal party” and yet he was denied fresh elections by the government.

“Everyone knows Mujibur Rehman and his party won the general elections in 1970. Instead of handing over power, a clever politician set Awami League and the army on the collision course... at present, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are playing a similar role as they are trying to conspire with the establishment to block the PTI’s journey back to power,” the former premier alleged.

Speaking at the rally, Imran Khan also challenged former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to an electoral contest. “Nawaz Sharif I challenge you: when you come back, I will beat you in your constituency!” he thundered.

In the same breath, Mr Khan took former president Asif Ali Zardari to the task and said that he would be descending on Sindh because the province needed “liberation from his rule…Sindh needs haqiqi azadi, more than any other province”.

The PTI chairman also urged the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the “custodial torture” of PTI leaders Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill and ensure justice.

Fresh schedule

According to PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry who shared the fresh schedule of the long march with the media, the PTI rally will not reach Islamabad even on Sunday. He added that the long march will reach Gujrat on Nov 3 while on Friday, it will camp at Lala Musa.

Earlier in the day, after travelling about 10 kilometers within Gujranwala, the march was halted and the party chief returned to his Lahore abode. As per the new schedule shared by the party, the march would start from Gondlawala Chowk on Wednesday (today) and end at Gakhar Mandi after covering a distance of 15km.

In the first five days, the march hardly covered 100 kilometers. The PTI plans to stay on the road for the next ten days before reaching the federal capital – its destination.

A party insider commented on the snail pace of the march and said that the PTI chief was engaged in a “battle of nerves” hoping the establishment and the federal government would cave into his demand for fresh polls.

The insider claimed the party was also grappling with a “lack of momentum” as the crowds which thronged the march were not “big enough to scare the government or the establishment” into listening to his demands. “All these factors are forcing Imran to take more time to generate momentum for desired results, as they do not seem a possibility at the moment.”

Location of sit-in

Meanwhile, another PTI leader claimed that the party was reconsidering its plans of entering Islamabad for the long march because of the government’s resolve to counter the marchers with the help of police and law enforcement agencies.

“There is a possibility of halting the march in Rawalpindi,” the insider claimed and added there were two reasons for mulling the decision. “The PTI leadership is thinking of staging a sit-in in Pindi because it is in power in the province,” the PTI leader said.

The party insider added that the second reason would be the ‘symbolic’ importance of the garrison city which houses the General Headquarters, to which Imran Khan is apparently looking for a bargain. “The final decision, however, will be made once the march will reach the gates of Rawalpindi,” the PTI leader said, calling the debate over the location of the sit-in a “hot topic” in the party.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2022

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