As PTI sets stage, PML-N watches with bated breath

Published: October 30, 2011

Imran Khan’s rising popularity has the Sharifs ‘deeply worried’. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ QAZI USMAN

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: 

The air in Lahore is thick with anticipation.

As caravans bound for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) October 30 rally approach the city from across the province, the city’s traditional political leadership, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), watches with bated breath.

The rising prominence of PTI, and particularly its chief Imran Khan, has the PML-N ‘deeply worried,’ leading senior party leaders to devise a new campaign to counter its new rival in urban Punjab.

Top PML-N officials said the party had been closely monitoring Imran’s political moves, and public response to them, in recent months, and concluded that there was definitely a need to take it seriously.

Imran, whose party has been making significant inroads as a ‘street power’ but has yet to do well in elections, is being seen by observers as at least a ‘game changer’ in coming parliamentary polls, especially in Punjab’s urban areas.

At least 40% of electoral constituencies in Punjab are urban, according to rough estimates based on the 1998 census, and have historically served as the powerhouse for PML-N, save the 2002 general elections when General Musharraf-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) won a landslide victory.

Potent challenge

Imran’s PTI now serves as the most potent challenge to PML-N’s conventional vote-bank, observers say.

PTI would field more than 200 candidates across Pakistan for the National Assembly seats in the 2013 general elections, said the party’s spokesperson.

“Our aim is to see Imran Khan as the next prime minister of Pakistan,” said PTI’s information secretary Omar Sarfaraz Cheema. This will be highest number of candidate fielded by the PTI in an election.

The enthusiasm among the rank and file of PTI has not gone unnoticed.

“We are politicians and we keep an eye on a person or a group who can harm us even in a single constituency,” said PML-N spokesperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan when asked if his party was taking Imran’s PTI seriously.

He hastened to add, though, that his party’s leadership was not worried by Imran’s activities.“We are definitely not panicking as far as Imran is concerned. You’ve seen what happened to his candidates in by-elections in Rawalpindi last year, and recently in Sahiwal,” the senator said.

Keeping a watch

Not all PML-N leaders appear to be so dismissive though.

At least two senior party members said that PTI’s activities had been part of every PML-N meeting in recent months and all leaders, including Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, were taking it seriously.

“It is wrong to say that we are either unconcerned or not worried about the rise of Imran,” said one of the leaders on condition of anonymity. “In politics, you can never sit back and relax. Things change overnight,” the official added.

Targeting the youth

In its effort to plug in all loopholes in campaign strategy that rivals, especially Imran’s PTI, could take advantage of, PML-N is working on a policy exclusively aimed at reaching out to the youth.

“We will go out to tell them what Nawaz Sharif, and his two stints in power, have given to Pakistan,” PML-N’s deputy information secretary Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said.

“We will tell them that the motorway they travel on was not always there … these modern airports in Lahore and Karachi, somebody had the vision to build all these things,” Khurram said.

“The youth itself must realise that serving a country is one thing and raising hollow slogans is another,” he added, in an apparent rebuke of Imran’s anti-America rhetoric, especially his opposition to drone strikes.

Overrated?

Political analysts, however, are unsure about Imran’s capabilities of posing any serious challenge to the PML-N.

“I will say he is overrated … and supported by those who want to undermine genuine political forces,” said Harris Khaliq, a political commentator.

“Who is with him? Only affluent urban middle class elite … but the problem is that they don’t understand politics from inside-out,” Khaliq said, adding that he did not see any major victory for Imran in the coming elections.

Stage set in Lahore

With 45,000 chairs set up under the shadow of Minar-e-Pakistan, the stage is set for PTI’s public gathering scheduled to be held on Sunday (today). Party officials are expecting a gathering of around 100,000 supporters and workers, majority of them from Lahore.

The party had assigned a target of 15,000 supporters from Southern Punjab – Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan – besides a large number from Faisalabad and Gujranwala.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (53)

  • pakistani
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:02AM

    these so called analysts have no idea what is going to happen in next elections. inshaAllah PTI will sweep in it. these corrupt politicians are surely afraid of PTI’s rising popularity.

    Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:04AM

    Allah SWT helps PTI.

    Recommend

  • zia ur rehman
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:04AM

    yes!!! even i can feel that anticipation from 15000 miles away from pakistan :D

    Recommend

  • S!d
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:07AM

    lol, PPP is going to enjoy today’s show.

    Recommend

  • Oct 30, 2011 - 10:07AM

    All these years most we, Pakistanis, have sat in our homes and cribbed about the system, wished for change, complained about not having a leader?
    Today we should act. Get out of the house, step up to change the system we disagree with and show full support to the man who can lead us towards a better tomorrow.

    Minar e Pakistan here I come.

    Recommend

  • Irfan Shah
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:10AM

    We are with you Imran Khan!

    Recommend

  • saeed
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:11AM

    Let the elections come and then all these analyst and politicians will see Inshallah..There eyes will be wide opne and breaths will stop when they will see Pakistanis voting for PTI in numbers…not only KPK and Punjab..world will see how PTI will take seats from Karachi also…Just because of the Condition of law and order public is not coming openly in karachi..but the silent majoirty in homes has made up there mind..note my comment..on election day Inshalah PTI will take seats from Karachi also…

    Recommend

  • S!d
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:20AM

    lol, ppp is going to enjoy this show :D

    Recommend

  • saleem
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:37AM

    It will stage managed by jamaat e islami

    Recommend

  • Aslam
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:48AM

    PTI will be RIP today Inshallah.
    Typical move by ISI and Army to distribute PML(N) votes down.

    Why IK doesn’t start with karachi

    Recommend

  • khan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:57AM

    50 000 + seats

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  • Ali
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:06AM

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    Alll these political analysts, seasoned politicians, and think tanks are in for a reality check.

    Imran Khan has arrived.

    Recommend

  • F Khan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:13AM

    If IK can pull a million people today.This is the beginning of the end of both AZ & NS.

    Recommend

  • Waqar
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:15AM

    WELL Done(Y) ISI.

    You did it again :D

    Recommend

  • Tass
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:28AM

    Imran Khan is sure to dent somebodys vote bank, but this will be more of the PPP vote and anti American sentiments vote than the PML(N) vote bank. People in Sind, Punjab, KP and Balochistan are very angry with poor governance by the coalition in Islamabad and their lack of respect for human lives. There is no longer a LEFT or RIGHT vote now in Pakistan. When people are driven to starvation, their lives are in danger, their properties being looted, than they will vote for whoever raises a voice against CORRUPTION< RULE OF LAW etc

    Recommend

  • Exposed
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:28AM

    My answer to Khurran Dastagir is that all the govterments in the world make motorways and airports with public funds and do the accountability of a minor corruption but PMLn leadership has done some serious corruption such as Money Laundering, Loans written off, Public funds for rallies and own family security and nepotism etc We can’t see any better management in Punjab where CM is holding more than 10 ministeries.

    Time for all traditional parties is over.

    We, The youth stand for CHANGE with PTI

    Recommend

  • Sundeep
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:44AM

    Imran could be the best hope for Pakistan. Although he has to cut down on platitudes and explain to its constituents his solution to the present issues in Pakistan. All I hear is his constant tirades on political parties and taking an exact opposite stand to them, never explaining how that would solve the problems.

    Recommend

  • Haroon
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:13PM

    Guess who will be coming down ,, the flags are up .. .Guess who will be Number 1……..(Bring back 1992 Pakistan)

    Recommend

  • zafar raja
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:16PM

    Its abt time to give IK a chance, others parties failed! We need change and determined, focused youth can change PK forever. We caanot carry on like we are. Energy, jobs,education, health. No more drones, we need to giVe support to IK.Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:19PM

    People will be stunned to the see the results of general elections in 2013.

    I can see that PTI is gaining support from the masses and majority of the voters are going to vote for the candidates nominated by Imran Khan.

    PPP and PML(N) have been in the government for number of times.

    Now it is the turn of PTI to form the government in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Saleem
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:27PM

    Let us bring out a TRUE political party to compete with PPP . Although corrupt but atleast PPP is another political force which unlike PML(N) or PML(Q) was not created by GHQ.

    Recommend

  • Oct 30, 2011 - 12:27PM

    Time has come to rewrite history….Plz all analyst be with your words……Don’t change yourself we will change them InshaALLAH……

    Recommend

  • Sajid
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:32PM

    half the people in his crowd will be the ones who will sleep till 3 pm on the voting day

    Recommend

  • Haroon
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:49PM

    When she was just a girl
    She expected the World
    But it flew away from her reach
    so she ran away in her sleep
    and dreamed of Para Para Paradise Para Para Paradise ……………………
    (COLD PLAY)

    Recommend

  • ASQ
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:02PM

    Pulling a crowd of over 100,000 people isn’t a game changer.i can’t see PTI winning more then 5 seats in next general election.

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  • Tahir
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:35PM

    Why is there no live updates?

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  • Reality
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:42PM

    @Lady Macbeth(Karachi):
    Don’t you think if he marries a Pakistani woman and has children, it will boost his ratings & popularity? Coz when people hear he married a rich Jewess from UK, has children with her, divorced, but not remarried to a Pakistani woman, it kind of freaks people out, don’t it?

    Recommend

  • Xomi
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:02PM

    @Waqar:
    Ya, ISI is paying all these youth to come out, all of them will also get free KFC meals and admission to LUMS.

    Point being, do you atleast try and think before you speak?

    Recommend

  • Xomi
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:07PM

    ‘Seasoned Analysts’ think the youth are dumb…what they don’t realise is they and their generation have screwed up this country. They think we dont understand politics, we not only understand, we will redefine it for them.

    Recommend

  • Waqar
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:38PM

    @Xomi:
    and do you even think? idiot

    Recommend

  • zenn
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:56PM

    @Waqar:
    is isi responsible for everything??!! do you know whose your daddy?

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Shoaib
    Oct 30, 2011 - 3:02PM

    Today’s JALSA will Inshallah herald a new dawn is Pakistan’s history…Dark is going to be shed soon… and Imran Khan is the hope for Pakistan’s SURE bright future. I have HIGH HOPES that future of Pakistan is linked with eridacation of corruption, nepotism, injustice and spoailation of poors on the name of empty slogans, and that only IMRAN KHAN can ensure with his principled leadership and chrishma.

    Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood
    Oct 30, 2011 - 3:35PM

    PML N has Punjab, through and through. Imran can have fun for few days.
    Look what happened at Rawalpindi Sahiwal, lol.
    Imran can’t get the second seat.

    Recommend

  • Sanaullah
    Oct 30, 2011 - 5:44PM

    I am a B.Com student. Its great to see such great support for Imran khan but the problem is that even half of these people are not going to vote for Imran khan.Out of 70000 people out there only 30000 gonna vote and how many of those gonna go to Tehreek-e-Insaaf that’s what we don’t know.Its sad but this is Pakistani politics.You buy votes.Will Imran Khan buy votes? I don’t think so. But i see that people now at-least know who is right and who is wrong,who is dirty and who is clean? If i ever vote in the future i will go for PTI candidate and if i ever have to join a party i shall go for PTI. Because now the time for real change has come.And I believe Imran Khan with the support of the people of Pakistan will bring a positive change in this country.If Pakistani scientists can understand nuclear technology and can make this country a nuclear power then why the same people and managers cannot remove corruption and make this country a prosperous country. I liked Nawaz Shareef and PML-N but the same Nawaz Shareef when hugs Asif Ali Zardari and congratulates him on becoming the president then it hurts.When Zardari was elected the president i knew what is going to happen in the future. First Nawaz put that man on our heads and now he is saying Zardari is looting the country the question is did Nawaz not know what Zardari will do and the answer is he definitely knew this but the plan was lets first you do what you want and then give us a chance. I saw PML-N rally and their student federation.They were forcing our college students to go for the rally but we rejected them and they had to go with fewer students who were of the MSF.Its a shame they had to force people to go for the rally.

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  • Mustafa Cheema
    Oct 30, 2011 - 6:02PM

    strong textAll those Pakistanies who love Pakistan and want to see it properous and a developed and a corruption free country should support Imran Khan and his PTI. We all should pray that Almighty God should give us a chance to have a sincere, brave and capabale leader like IMRAN KHAN. God bless him with a long life. Pakistan Zidabad, Imran Khan Painda Bad. Mustafa Cheema from Saudi Arabia.

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  • kpk
    Oct 30, 2011 - 8:03PM

    this so called analyst is totaly wrong in saying that only affluent urban population is with imran. i am from KPK and all my village friends vowed to vote for PTI and they are definitely not affluent.

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  • umair
    Oct 30, 2011 - 8:36PM

    imran ……the next pm

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  • Khalid Khan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 8:36PM

    Today was nothing less than a game changer. The youth vote is not going to those who failed us in the 90′s. Incumbents will not be judged on their talk, they will be graded on their delivery or the lack of it. The 6th largest country in the world, can afford neither corruption nor incompetence. As is typical with any major change the reactions are Ignore, Anger, Negotiate and Accept. Imran is going to see a lot of anger in the coming days, which will only go to show that he can no longer be Ignored and that the change is now really on its way!

    Recommend

  • umair
    Oct 30, 2011 - 8:39PM

    imran khan …the next PM

    Recommend

  • Aamer Khan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:07PM

    PTI’s jalsa today is a GAME CHANGER…You can be like the stupid stork (the so-called jokers who call themselves analyst..) and hide your head in the sand and IGNORE the writing on the wall, but its to your own peril. If I was PML-N, I would be crapping bricks right now and if I was PPP, then I would be changing the equation and saying ‘OK, so how do we defeat PTI now that 4 million bogus votes – due to which we formed our illegitimate government – have been erased from our Samosa Roster…You know what I mean?? And the worse of the lot is the Secret Admirers of India (SAIs), who have nothing else but to blame ISI for everything that happens under the sun. So people, wake up cause PTI will be ruling the roost 2013, inshaAllah (BTW, I am not some young idealist but a 49 year old who loves my country…)Recommend

  • Aadersh
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:47PM

    We wanna hear only one name…None other than Imran Khan…!!

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  • Oct 30, 2011 - 11:09PM

    40,000 seats. LOLZ!

    There was over 150,000 people easily, maybe more, for all of us to see with our own eyes.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    THE GAME HAS ALREADY CHANGED :)

    Recommend

  • Shah
    Oct 31, 2011 - 12:42AM

    Today’s grand jalsa is a tight slap on the face of these so called drawing room pundits and analysts. The change has come

    Recommend

  • Akbar Asghar
    Oct 31, 2011 - 12:57AM

    Woh din kay jiska wadah hai
    H a m d e k h a i n g a y
    Inshallah woh din ab zyada door nahi!Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad
    Oct 31, 2011 - 3:10AM

    N league need not to worry. It has solid vote bank and it will win most of the seats in Punjab. Imran cannot win more than three seats in Punjab and two in KPK. All his supporters showed up at Minar-e-Pakistan and most of them are not voters yet. They came for fun and many of them must have lied to their parents who will find out when they will call tution centres.

    Recommend

  • Oct 31, 2011 - 9:49AM

    I am getting married in one week and i was there at the jalsa, no one forced me in fact i had been convincing my family to let me do this for once. There were more than two lack people. I have seen and met educated, learned and serious class of Pakistan. Who would trust such a place with such crowd and have their 6 months old kids along? Imran Khan’s supporter will. All you elites can comment on such blogs, tweet useless lines, eat your burgers and think that the system will remain this way to support their vicious ways of lives and we will make sure to sabotage the entire nexus.

    Since i was there, people around me will believe me more than government agencies. Lahore did it once again, we will we finish it this time, insha’Allah.

    Pakistan Zindabaa’d.Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 31, 2011 - 11:49AM

    @Ch Allah Daad: Mr. be ready to witness the change as hell much change happened in Gulf, Now it is Pakistan turn but here chnge will come with peace.

    Vote for change, Vote for PTI.

    Recommend

  • Bakht Rawan
    Oct 31, 2011 - 1:24PM

    this great will overcome pakistan from lot of challeges, the people of pakistan have many many hopes from Imran khan but lets see what will he do in future……….?

    Recommend

  • Nasim
    Oct 31, 2011 - 1:24PM

    MQM and PTI are the future of Pakistan, we have to support them.

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  • kamran azim
    Oct 31, 2011 - 4:02PM

    long live immi…we need a new face in the game of dirty politics. He seems honest and trustworthy.

    Recommend

  • Oct 31, 2011 - 8:38PM

    @Reality:

    This is the third time I am replying to your comment and find it annoyingly unsettling why my reply keeps getting deleted

    All I have to say is ”dont judge a man by his mistakes, rather by what he has does to amend”.

    If we were to cast aspersions at a man for his nuptial choices, I am sure we know one great leader who married a rich non muslim from India, had a child with her, divorced, but not remarried to a Pakistani woman, it could have freaked people out, couldn’t it? It didnt!!!

    Quaid e Azam delivered Pakistan and Imran Khan will save it.

    Recommend

  • arslan
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:40AM

    we are behind one cause to eradicate corruption and stand behind lmran.

    Recommend

  • Karim
    Nov 2, 2011 - 1:02PM

    The Youth Trusts Imran as he is a fair, honest, consistent and courageous politician. Recommend

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