PTI chief Imran Khan announced that he would give a call for a Jail Bharo Tehreek, and asked his supporters to get ready in preparation for his call. This, he said, was in response to the recent wave of arrests of PTI leaders, which is supposed to culminate with his arrest. One purpose is to give the entire nation an additional date to wait for, just as previously he had been giving dates for a March on Islamabad, neither of which was successful, not even in attracting the number of people he said they would, let alone in forcing the government to announce a date for fresh elections. The call also seems as an attempt to introduce a new subject into the national debate, which is at the moment slightly shocked by the PTI’s failure to attend the apex committee meeting in Peshawar on the blast last Monday which saw 100 people killed, and its announcement of a refusal to attend the All-Parties Conference called by the government on the same subject for February 8. The call seems based on a hazy memory of the Jail Bharo Movement launched in the Punjab just before Partition. It should be remembered that that was a provincial movement, not a national, though it was controlled by the central party.
Mr Khan’s success in this movement will depend on whether his following is as committed as he claims it is. The public reaction to the arrest of former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry was not very encouraging, and there was not much of a protest. Mr Khan’s own arrest might provoke a greater public reaction, but once the government rides through that, there will be little to fear. Mr Khan seems to have painted himself into a corner with his take-no-prisoners attitude, which encompasses a refusal to talk to the other side, almost as if he feared their polluting influence. He had labelled all opponents thieves and dacoits. He seems to have missed the point of democracy, which is that one talks even to thieves and dacoits if they have been elected.
Mr Khan might remember that even thieves are citizens of a nation, and refusal to let their shadows pollute him, should not prevent unity in the face of terrorism. It is this sort of encouragement of terrorists, in which Mr Khan participated not least by his talk of rehabilitation, that made the Peshawar tragedy possible.