LAHORE, Oct 30: The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf leaders and workers observed “Revolution Day” on Tuesday marking completion of a year since the party held its ‘historic’ October 30 public meeting under Minar-i-Pakistan here in 2011.

They said the party had come a long way since then and was now rubbing shoulders with major political players in the country, including Muslim League-Nawaz and People’s Party in terms of mass popularity.

The party claims to have enrolled some 10 million members allover the country and is going for intra-party elections from November 2 to elect office-bearers.

“We are no more the ‘third option’, but will be the first one in the next general elections,” claimed PTI central information secretary Shafqat Mahmood while talking to Dawn.

He cited results of different surveys placing PTI on the top in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and the second most popular party in Punjab and Sindh. PTI chief Imran Khan had also emerged as the most popular political leader in the country, according to different independent surveys.

However, the PTI’s major contender, PML-N, which faced a huge setback a year ago in the city that was considered its bastion, now feels comfortable and is not ready to even call it a political party. The PTI has no identity but a brand name that is Imran Khan, many a PML-N supporter argue.

PML-N Senator and spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed says the PTI has itself negated its slogan of change by replacing fresh faces with old ones and young leaders with aged politicians.

It is also accused of letting in “opportunists” and people having “money power”.

While people are defecting to the PTI from other parties, the party itself is not immune to the phenomenon as some of its stalwarts have left it complaining that opportunists, turncoats and filthy rich people had taken charge of ideological workers and leaders.

However, the party leaders brush off such criticism and say that a large majority of those joining the party were professionals and those belonging to the middle class. They also take pride while listing a number of top-ranking politicians with good reputation, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jahangir Tareen, Javed Hashmi and Asad Umer who got attracted to the party.

Mr Mahmood admitted that the party’s leadership and workers were up to face the challenge that its ideology and merit should not be compromised at any level. “The party elections will be a big opportunity for PTI members to elect genuine leaders to represent them at all levels,” he added.

Apart from the departure of two ideological workers – Shirin Mazari and Admiral (retired) Javed Iqbal -- Mr Mahmood said the opportunists were leaving the party and the process would continue.

“It is a blessing in disguise that opportunists are leaving the party,” he said. “The party leadership believes in meritocracy and not nominations, which is the case in other political parties,” he added.

In order to bring in true democracy in the country, PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid said, the party had announced elections within its ranks and would go for the process in phases from November 2.

Referring mass membership of the party as a popularity mark, Dr Rashid said the party had enrolled some 10 million members and the lists were being verified.

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