Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s 20th Foundation Day is days away and the party’s leaders have begun mobilising workers from Lahore to take part in an event expected to make a mark in the wake of the Panama Papers controversy.
The party’s leaders recently met in Islamabad to deliberate on preparations and to draw a strategy ahead of April 24, when more members are expected to gather in Islamabad to mark 20 years of the PTI. Party chief Imran Khan is expected to announce a strategy in lieu of the Panama Papers.
The party has already demanded the establishment of an inquiry commission headed by the chief justice. It has also reached out to other opposition parties to forge a consensus on the issue. Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been given the task. For his part, former governor Chaudhry Sarwar has announced a contact drive to reach out to workers in order to mobilise them for the Foundation Day.
The party has established three-member committees in various districts to ensure mass participation. Apart from the transport, finance and publicity committees, there is a women’s committee.
The PTI does not expect the government to create problems for them ahead of the Foundation Day, but deliberations are underway on whether or not some convoys should head to the capital before April 24.
Chaudhry Sarwar, Ejaz Chaudhry, Aleem Khan, and Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed are to lead workers to Gaddafi Stadium on the morning of April 24. Shafqat Mehmood has been asked to bring supporters to Gaddafi on Sunday morning, but some party workers say that members of his group are undecided as to whether they want to gather at Gaddafi Stadium or go to Nasser Bagh instead.
The organisers have planned for 9 hours journey time from Lahore to Islamabad with provision for stops. The convoy is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad at around 7pm. It will stop at 10 places before reaching its destination. Local leaders will merge their convoys at each of the major stops including Shahdra, Muridke, Kamoke, Gujranwala, Wazirabad, Gujrat, Lala Musa – Kharian, Jhelum, Gujjar Khan and Rawalpindi.
The party is currently focused on taking opposition parties on board, Ejaz Chaudhry, the party’s former Punjab president, said. “The party is intent on not flying solo on the Panama Papers issue. We’re working to build a political consensus.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party has been holding similar consultations in the federal capital but Chaudhry says that the PTI is least bothered about who would lead the effort. “There is no fear or apprehension about who takes the lead in building a consensus. We just want the Opposition to come out whole-heartedly on the issue.”
Chaudhry said consultations with political parties, held so far, had generated a good response.
As to what April 24 holds, Chaudhry said in the aftermath of the Panama Papers, the tone of the event had changed. “It’s not a protest. In fact it was initially meant to be a festive event to mark our years of struggle. Now with the Panama Papers issue, the tone is set to change.”
The demand for the formation of a commission headed by the CJ could prove a point of in the parliament as well as outside of it, he said. About a Raiwind sit-in, Chaudhry said that was an option. “There was never a final decision regarding the Raiwind protest. It is an option the party will look into when the time comes.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.