Saturday May 28, 2022
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is unhappy with his party's top leaders for failing to mobilise supporters to participate in his long march to Islamabad, it emerged Friday.
Geo News anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada revealed that the PTI chairman apparently expected considerably larger numbers, thinking people would turn out on their own as they did shortly after his government was ousted.
Khan's anger appears to originate from the fact that in Punjab, where the PTI holds 83 National Assembly seats and 158 provincial assembly seats, voters only turned out in Lahore, and in low numbers.
Although there was some organic movement at Karachi's Numaish Chowrangi, the PTI did not engage in any political action in Sindh. People did not show up in Rawalpindi, and even PTI leaders appeared to have gone missing in action.
The PTI chairman is said to be angry at the poor showing of both people and PTI leaders in all these cities, asking why despite a large political rally in Lahore just a short while back, the city saw such a small turnout for the march.
When the PTI leaders were asked about Imran Khan's anger at how they handled it, they countered with details on the disconnect between the statement and reality regarding the long march.
The PTI leaders argued that they were not given enough time to prepare by the chairman. They shared that they had advised Imran Khan that because he had specified the march will take place between May 25 and May 29, fixing May 25 as the date was a bad idea because they needed to plan transportation and logistics: how would people get there? Where would they stay? Food? Logistics?
They say they had asked Imran Khan to extend the date by a few days. But the PTI chairman seemed to maintain an element of surprise over the government and was concerned that if they extended the date, the government would be able to make plans to stop the march.
The PTI leaders told Geo Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath that they had told Imran Khan that an active supporter of the PTI generally comes to jalsas and protests on his/her own — but the caveat was that other than supporters from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI does not have supporters elsewhere who would brave the police or tear gas or the heat in an effort to try and reach Islamabad.
In 2014 too, without Tahirul Qadri's workers, the dharna would not have been sustained. As their leader, the PTI supporters used to return home instead of spending the whole day at the sit-in.
Geo ASKKS was told by the PTI sources that they had tried to explain to Imran Khan that without a proper plan, the long march would not be a good idea, and the announcement of a dharna would end up more of a problem for the PTI. They further shared that a threat of their impending arrival in the capital without a fixed date would be a far more potent strategy.
Contrary to Imran's plans, others in the party had hoped this threat would keep the pressure on the 'neutrals' and the government both. Imran Khan, though, was confident that there would be such a sea of people that the government would buckle even before the march reached Islamabad; that the police would fail to stop such a large number of people; and that the 'neutrals' and the government too would not be able to withstand such a show of people power.
Now, with the PTI chairman unhappy at his MNAs and MPAs for what he sees as a failure to bring out the people, some of the party insiders Geo ASKKS spoke with have said that they are instead unhappy at the six-day ultimatum. They ask: when people didn't come out two days ago, why would they come out six days later? And even if they were to somehow make arrangements, where would they get the people from to stage a dharna long enough to get the government to resign?
According to the PTI sources, at the moment, Imran Khan seems to be only listening to a handful of people close to him, instead of to politicians better adept at traditional constituency politics.
As summed up by Shahzeb Khanzada, the inside story of the PTI right now seems to be a tale of a series of disappointments while supporters are upset at why the party didn't give a dharna after having announced it. Imran is angry at party leaders for not getting people to reach Islamabad or hold protests in their own cities. PTI leaders are upset at not getting enough time to prepare in the first place and now again at Imran Khan for not listening to wiser counsel.
Originally published in The News