LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which was supposed to kick off its election campaign today with a rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar, has decided to dedicate Wednesday’s demonstration to the judiciary and postponed the launch of its canvassing drive until Saturday.

The election campaign will now be initiated with a public rally at Sangla Hill, a town in central Punjab.

Though the rally is dedicated to “respect and dignity of the judiciary” which, according to the PTI, is under attack from political quarters, party insiders term it a “formal commencement of the election campaign”.

Otherwise, a sleepy town like Sangla Hill is hardly a propitious place to start a politically-charged and high-stakes election campaign for the throne of Punjab, they added.

Imran to lead rally for ‘respect of judiciary’ today; Elahi officially appointed party president

“After months of rest and healing of bullet wounds, Imran Khan himself would lead the rally [on Wednesday],” a PTI leader said.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, PTI leader Hammad Azhar claimed that all arrangements were complete. “[Wednesday’s] rally would start from Zaman Park, travel along the canal, take a sharp turn at Muslim Town Mor, and march towards the tomb of Data Ali Hajveri before its culmination,” he informed the media at the party office.

This rally was aimed at strengthening the judiciary, which is the last hope for the people and the rule of law, as per the PTI leader.

Separately, PTI Central Secretary General Asad Umar told a press conference said that Imran Khan was now the target of an “organised campaign”.

“All 76 cases lodged against him are aimed at drawing him out of the protection of his home and exposing his life to threats,” the PTI leader said.

Mr Khan is facing a catch-22: if he goes to the courts, he puts his life in danger and if he does not, he faces legal consequences, Mr Umar added. “The party has decided that legal repercussions of avoiding court appearances are far less than going to courts and exposing his life to danger,” he maintained.

The PTI is approaching high courts in Lahore and Islamabad either to provide foolproof security for Imran Khan or allow remote hearings. “The kind of foolproof (security) he needs is next to impossible,” he claimed. “The person who tried to kill Imran Khan (at Wazirabad on November 3) is allowed to appear before the court via video link but the man who was the target is denied this facility,” he lamented.

‘No request for meeting with COAS’

Separately, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said Imran Khan never made any request to meet Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir and termed the speculations about the request for a meeting “baseless”.

“Chairman Imran Khan has never made any request to meet army chief or any of his representatives; likewise, president [Alvi] has never approached Chairman PTI with any suggestion of army chief for meeting Shehbaz Sharif, speculations in this regard are baseless,” he tweeted.

Elahi made PTI president

PTI chief Imran Khan nominated Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as PTI president — a slot vacated by Javed Hashmi in October 2014 – two weeks after he joined the former ruling party.

Amid the delay in the appointment, speculations were rife but the notification put an end to these rumours and reaffirmed Imran Khan’s pledge that Mr Elahi’s loyalty and sacrifices to the party would be rewarded.

Parvez Elahi was promised this slot when he formally joined the PTI along with 10 members of the Punjab Assembly – eight elected on general seats and two on reserved seats – more than a month after dissolving the provincial assembly in the last week of January on the orders of Imran Khan.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023

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