LAHORE: As the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gears up for what it terms its ‘historic’ protest in Raiwind for the accountability of the prime minister and his family, rumours of internal rifts within the party have recently made waves forcing party leadership to openly address the issue.
The party had called the reports of internal rifts as an attempt by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to sabotage its Raiwind march, scheduled for tomorrow (Friday). It had also blamed ‘segments within the media’ for spreading the rumours.
But over the past month, the party has been busy bandaging internal wounds as it continues to battle challenges, sources said. Speculation regarding internal division sparked when party wings were dissolved last month by the PTI Secretary General Jehangir Khan Tareen, outraging the PTI’s youth wing.
While the issue fizzled out after the youth leadership was called in at Imran Khan’s residence in Bani Gala, the wing maintained it was still at odds with Tareen for his decision but would not let it affect the Raiwind rally.
In a press conference in Lahore last week, the party’s youth wing, which has been a major part of its protest campaigns, held a press conference reiterating its support for the rally.
The internal fissures are not new to the party which suffered major fragmentation in the aftermath of its first intra-party elections. Resignation of an old member, Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmad, also came in smack in the middle of its preparations for the Raiwind rally.
But the PTI’s central information secretary Naeemul Haq expressed displeasure at being accused of triggering the resignation. This week in Lahore, Haq took to clarifying that while he always held Justice Wajihuddin in high esteem, differences emerged after his decision to dissolve party offices without a ‘complete investigation’.
Haq said Wajihuddin was already not active in the party for over a year adding that he was planning to form his own political party.
Haq was again in the news, this time for his alleged rifts with party’s Karachi-based leader Faisal Vawda. Different claims by the party’s central information secretary and Haq over the role of Vawda in the Raiwind rally stirred confusion eventually to be put to rest by their chairman Imran Khan.
Within an hour of Haq’s briefing to the media at the party’s chairman secretariat on Monday in which he claimed that no responsibility had been given to Vawda, the party’s central media department issued a statement clarifying that Imran had indeed handed Vawda the task of making the protest a ‘success’.
Haq had also negated claims of a ‘plan B’ for the Raiwind rally, adding that shutting down of cities is a step the party may consider in a later stage of their movement. Media had reported that Vawda had claimed to formulate a strategy to shut down the entire city if the government attempted to sabotage their Raiwind rally.
On Wednesday, amid media frenzy over a dispute between Vawda and Haq, the latter issued another statement claiming that there was no truth in reports of differences. He termed reports of dispute as attempts by ‘government propaganda’ machinery to damage party unity.
A similar stance was taken by senior leaders of the party Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Tareen as they dismissed the notion that there were differences between them. Speaking to media on Wednesday, Qureshi said the fact that two stood before everyone was a testament that the party was united.
The statement comes in the wake of reports of Qureshi and Punjab former governor Chaudhry Sarwar were distancing themselves from rallies and meetings relating to the September 30 march.
With Aleem Khan at the forefront of preparations for the rally, Sarwar’s camp remained absent claiming he was being sidelined. Party sources claim Sarwar also received a call on behest of the party chief questioning his absence from party functions.
On Wednesday, for the first time during the build-up for the Raiwind rally, Sarwar made a public appearance in a rally led by chief Imran Khan in Lahore.
The appearance came after a lunch with Imran at Ejaz Chaudhry’s residence, a meeting which was reportedly aimed at ‘bridging’ internal gaps. On Imran Khan’s instructions, Sarwar is now scheduled to rally support in Faisalabad today for Raiwind rally where the party is likely to announce its next strategy.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2016.