Politics of protest – The News International

The PTI returns to staging public rallies to muster support ahead of by-polls

T
he Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the only mainstream opposition party today, has been on the receiving end since its opponents got together turned the tables on its government in April.
Last week in a video message, its leader Imran Khan once again warned the movers and shakers of the country’s politics to stop harassing the second rung PTI leaders and pro-PTI media persons. He said they must take the country towards free and fair elections. He also said that he would be forced to reveal embarrassing things about those involved in the alleged conspiracy to oust his government if harassment of his party workers did not come to an early end. “If we are pushed against the wall and harassed, then I will be forced to speak up and will reveal everything about what happened with me and my government,” he said. He said the nation had clearly refused to accept the successor government. He also said the people of Pakistan had never seen the kind of fascism that came with the government. He was particularly vocal about the treatment being meted out to media persons speaking in favour of his party and against his ouster from the government.
Several arrests followed the warning. This indicated that that the warnings and threats were not enough to stop these at least for the time being. The Punjab Police arrested Imran Riaz Khan, a pro-PTI media person and then Haleem Adil Sheikh, a PTI Sindh leader and legislator.
On July 2, the PTI held a gathering of its workers at the Parade Ground in Islamabad. Khan, once again, urged the establishment to play its role in the current political situation to ward off further political and economic deterioration in the country. “My political opponents have been brought into power in an orchestrated move,” he said.
Addressing the Parade Ground gathering, Khan reiterated that the people wanted the country to be saved from thieving politicians. He said the capable national institutions should play a positive role in this regard. He said that he was not opposed to the ‘institutions’ but wanted their role in the country’s politics to be constructive. He said his only mission for now was to oust the incumbent government from power because it came through a ‘conspiracy’. He also hit the sitting government against price hike and record inflation within a few weeks. He also urged the superior courts to take note of the alleged moves by the ruling parties to manipulate the national institutions to get away with alleged corruption. He also slammed the government for ‘destroying’ the national economy.
“I want to express the sentiments of the people before all our national institutions. I am not here to start a war against the national institutions. I know very well that this imported government wants us to oppose these institutions and the judiciary.”
The former PM said that he would remain in Pakistan till his last breath. He said, some of the past rulers had left the country once their governments fell. “They fled to Saudi Arabia during Pervez Musharraf’s era before they returned to loot the country. These rulers are now getting the NRO-II. The currency devaluation has multiplied the rupee value of the assets of the ‘imported rulers’ that are held abroad,” he said.
He said that he had decided not to stage a sit-in in Islamabad to ward off violence. “The police was involved but I know that our police force is not violent. I know that the law and order situation of Islamabad would have deteriorated if I had chosen to stage a sit-in after the long march. “Today, the whole nation is out on the streets to send a message to the ‘institutions’ that Pakistan must be protected from these thieves,” he said.
The PTI is also campaigning for the upcoming by-polls in 20 constituencies of the provincial assembly in the Punjab that will decide the future course of politics in the most populated province of the country.
In a way, the PTI is going through the situation the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) had faced in 2018 when it complained of political engineering, unethical maneuvering and harassment. Several pro-PTI media persons have complained of pressure being brought against them and the party’s candidates for by-polls say they are being harassed.
Some analysts find it ironical that Imran Khan should call the government fascist for its treatment of journalists after what his government did to journalists during his tenure. His supporters, including some of the cabinet members, had then declared many journalists enemies of the country. Soon after its ouster from power, some of the PTI workers and supporters were alleged to have campaigned on the social media against the military leadership for what they described as its role in the ‘conspiracy’ to remove Khan from power. The PTI leaders deny that there was an organised campaign to this end.
It seems that the PTI does not now want a clash with the establishment. Instead, it is trying to get more political space with its help. Khan’s speeches and appeal to patriotism are an attempt to gain the establishment’s support. In this respect the PTI’s approach is not too different from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The writer is a staff member. He can be reached at vaqargillani@gmail.com. He tweets @waqargillani

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