As the PTI’s long march lost its steam in the third week because of the low participation of supporters, the party supremro on Saturday gave another date of November 26 to reach Rawalpindi — still shying away from entering into the boundaries of the federal capital or a announcing a date to do so.
In the absence of visible support from the powerful circles, PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan is carefully moving ahead and continuously refraining himself from making tall claims just like he did before the May 25 march earlier this year or in August 2014.
PTI leaders admit that if the party leadership has learnt one lesson from its May 25 march, which had abruptly come to an end, it is to keep its cards close to its chest and not give enough reaction time to the government. Before the May 25 march, Imran had said he expected roughly two million people to reach the federal capital and hold a sit-in at its D-Chowk, adding that they would stay there until the date for the dissolution of assemblies and new general elections was announced.
Seeing the low turnout, the PTI chairman had even given a six-day ultimatum to the PML-N-led government to declare snap polls, a demand which was simply laughed off by the ruling alliance, even before his “sputtered long march” was called off for another date.
Previously, Imran had even threatened the interior minister and tried his best to not give the government a chance to have the last laugh.
However, before the stench of tear gas lingering in the federal capital and the PTI’s wrath simmering, Imran had adopted a conciliatory tone on talks with the government — seen as a departure from his earlier populist position on the matter.
The PTI chairman had to abruptly call off the May 25 march, which he had earlier planned to convert into a sit-in, as even key members of the party leadership had failed to reach Islamabad.
The disappointing turnout was a major factor behind calling off the previous rally and that was why the party is cautiously taking one step at a time now.
Keeping the low attendance of the participants in view, the party leadership says that the coming week would be utilised for “mobilisation”.
During this period, PTI activists would be mobilised at the district level for attending the November 26 rally and eventually, the party leadership, along with its supporters, would reach the garrison city.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the long march was not yet over as the current plan was to spend more time on mobilisation and come prepared now.
However, Fawad revealed that the PTI chief would announce the next plan on November 26 and the party would “definitely” move towards Islamabad.
“The strategy is to not give reaction time to the government,” he said. He added that the next week would be crucial.
Another PTI leader, Shireen Mazari, shared that everything would unfold gradually.
“Once we are in Rawalpindi, then the next stage will come InshaAllah”, she added.
Kanwal Shauzab, the president of the PTI Women’s Wing, also said the participants of the march would not disperse until the date for fresh elections was given.
Contrary to the PTI’s claims, the government has said it would not even give a “perceived” victory to its rival party even if it converted its long march into a sit-in or marched towards the federal capital, adding that Imran would not be given any face-saving this time around.
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb maintained that the PTI chief’s political “gimmickry” would come to an end on November 26.
In a statement, the minister added that the fate of Imran's so-called “Haqeeqi Azadi March” would not be different from his 2014 rally.
“Imran Khan! It is over for you,” she said while indicating “the end” of the PTI chief’s politics.
She added that instead of urging his activists to reach Rawalpindi on November 26, Imran should have announced the date for filing cases in the UAE and UK over the Toshakhana scandal.
Instead of arriving in Islamabad or Rawalpindi, Imran should book his flight either to the UAE or UK, she said.
Marriyum claimed that November 26 would too pass and no quarter would support the PTI chief.
She regretted that the ”fake azadi march” had claimed innocent lives, including those of journalists, and rendered children parentless.
The minister lashed out at Imran for allegedly playing with national interests and inflicting severe damage to foreign policy.
The timing of the resumption of the march is also crucial as the government is expected to announce the name of the new army chief in the coming week and the change of command ceremony will take place on November 29.
(With input from APP)