- Party chairman describes march as ‘war for Pakistan’s future’ against political thugs
- Says if state uses police to quell march, PTI workers will fight back and govt will be held responsible
Amid divisions within the party’s top leadership over a host of affairs, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday announced to lead a protest rally on September 30 to Raiwind – around five kilometers away from the residence of the prime minister near Lahore.
Raiwind march has been planned to further press Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a judicial probe into the allegations surfaced in the Panama Papers involving his two sons and daughter who are alleged of owning several offshore holdings abroad.
Khan, who is desperate for being left alone by the opposition parties, made the announcement while addressing a party’s workers convention here. Khan could only convince Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed to join the march, as some opposition parties have just expressed moral support while others have advised Khan to postpone his plans.
“Preparatory rallies for Raiwind march will commence from September 24. I call upon everyone who is part of the PTI from across Pakistan – from Gilgit Baltistan to Sindh – to reach Raiwind on September 30. Come to Raiwind in convoys. One lawyer each should be accompanying every convoy. If anyone tries to stop a convoy, the lawyer will tell the police that under the constitution we have the right to hold peaceful protests,” Imran told a charged crowd, mostly comprising of young PTI supporters.
“This is a defining moment. If you don’t stand for your rights now, the ruling elites will destroy you. This is a mafia running the country,” the PTI chief told a group of emotional youth. He described his party’s march as “war for Pakistan’s future” against corrupt political thugs.
Khan also warned against stopping those joining the march by force, saying if force was used to disperse the protesters, then PTI workers would fight and the government would be responsible for any untoward happening.
Referring to the threats being hurled by PML-N’s ministers against the Raiwind March, Imran Khan said that Raiwind was not a personal property of anyone and that it’s a part of Pakistan, so “no one could deny our right of protest in a democratic system”.
“If there is any kind of violence incited against our peaceful marchers, we will protest across Punjab streets and Sharif family will be responsible for that. We will remain on the streets until we hold Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accountable,” declared Khan.
“If the police try to arrest our workers, PTI will protest outside police stations. If the police in Raiwind resort to violence, mind it, PTI is not the party that will break up. We will fight back,” warned the PTI chief.
Khan vowed to take out the biggest gathering of Pakistan’s political history, and directed his party workers to convince people from all walks of life to join the Raiwind march.
“Pakistanis have to make a choice whether they want a status quo by waiting for the 2018 elections. This would tantamount to forgetting the Panama Papers revelations and let the ruling family loot and plunder the country’s exchequer, ruin all institutions, get all their loyalists employed in public institutions through nepotism, he said.
“Only poor go to jails while the biggest dacoit of the country has become the prime minister,” he went on to say.
NIAZI RESIGNS, QURESHI TO FOLLOW SOON:
PTI’s top leadership stands divided over a host of issues – ranging from party’s re-organisation to efforts for more and more power grab and allegations for accommodating loyalists in party’s hierarchy. Dissolution of PTI wings ahead of the Raiwind march is a major cause of divisions within the party, as Qureshi believes that Tareen had sidelined all his group loyalists who were accommodated in party’s wings.
The development is a major setback for Imran Khan, who is set to lead his party to Raiwind, the camp office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The PTI had already suffered a huge blow when Dr Tahirul Qadri said that his party, Pakistan Awami Tehreek, would not be part of Khan’s Raiwind march.
Well placed sources in the party informed Pakistan Today that the PTI chief faced defiance and disagreement for giving sweeping powers to party’s secretary-general Jahangir Khan Tareen.
“PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi is unhappy over several issues. He is unhappy over the sweeping powers given to Jahangir Tareen. The resignation by Qureshi’s comrade Saifullah Niazi is the first drop of the rain. Qureshi would join Niazi soon by tendering his resignation,” a PTI leader told this scribe, requesting anonymity.
Asked when Qureshi is likely to resign from the PTI, the leader said that Qureshi would decide the timeframe on his own.
“He will resign, but at his own liking to have maximum impact. Just wait and see. Timing would be his own choice. But despite resignations, neither Qureshi nor Niazi would leave the party. They would fight while remaining within the party,” the source added.
Asked whether Qureshi also opposed the idea to lead a march to Raiwind, the PTI leader nodded in affirmative. “Yes, Qureshi is also opposed to the idea of the Raiwind march. He disagrees on the basis that it would set a bad tradition in the country’s political history,” the source added.
The source said that like Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Sarwar was not happy with the idea of the march too. “This is the reason that Chaudhry Sarwar was also missing from today’s meeting,” the source said.
Only a day back, party’s Additional Secretary-General Saifullah Khan Niazi resigned from his post, sending a shockwave across the party’s top tier.
Another PTI leader claimed that there were serious allegations of corruption in the party’s overseas funds against Saifullah Niazi.
“Imran Khan has taken notice of the allegations made by party’s overseas chapter. He himself asked Niazi to resign, so that an impartial probe could be launched,” said the PTI leader.
Niazi, who is not only the first cousin of Imran Khan, is among a few PTI leaders who had joined Imran Khan as founding members of the party in year 1996 when it was launched.
Niazi was appointed as the deputy central organiser of the party in 2015.
Niazi had been working as party’s additional secretary-general for the past many years, and had played a key role in keeping the party’s ideological workers attached to the party.
“Niazi was a hope for the party’s ideological workers. Despite the fact that the party’s founding members were unhappy over his association to Shah Mehmood Qureshi group, he was still loved by the ideological group,” the source added.
Another PTI leader said that Niazi had resigned over the fact that Tareen had been given all the powers and he had been left powerless. Niazi was the chief organiser of the party’s committee during PTI’s sit-in in Islamabad in 2014.
Despite repeated attempts, Shah Mehmood Qureshi did not attend phone calls made by this scribe while Saifullah Niazi’s cell phone did not respond.
PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq confirmed to media that Niazi had submitted his resignation. He, however, said the resignation had not been accepted as yet.
Nevertheless, PTI’s leader Shehryar Khan Afridi denied any differences within the party’s leadership.
“This is all rubbish. It appears that a campaign has been started against the PTI to fail the Raiwind march. There are no divisions and we stand united and firm. It is untrue that Shah Mehmood and Chaudhry Sarwar are not happy over the Raiwind march. Since Sharif family is very upset, we suspect that they might be behind such attempts to sabotage our Raiwind march,” Afridi added.
The PTI leader said that the objective of the Raiwind march was to ensure supremacy of the rule of law and to hold the powerful elites accountable to the law of the land.
“At this critical juncture, every PTI well-wisher and worker has to forget all differences and stand against corruption, loot and plunder. There are no divisions and we stand united today,” Afridi concluded.