ISLAMABAD: The PSL may have stolen the spotlight for quite some time; yet the mega corruption scandal continued to stay high on the political chart, with the latest row between the PTI and the PML-N on the prolific cricket event linked to the Panamagate, it is learnt.
PTI supremo Imran Khan’s seemingly bizarre opposition to hosting the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore ended up in drawing public ire.
It was part of the PTI’s strategy to counter the PML-N’s rising political graph linked to the PSL episode against the backdrop of an all important decision on the Panamagate expected in coming days.
Knowledgeable political sources told The Express Tribune that Khan’s initial statement in favour of hosting the PSL final in Lahore in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in the provincial capital raised concerns in the PTI K-P chapter.
It believed that the Punjab government was planning to deny PTI supporters an opportunity to watch the match at the Qaddafi stadium and ‘stuff’ the stadium with PML-N supporters.
The move, the PTI KP chapter conveyed to the party chairman, aimed at serving the N-League’s political interests by attracting public support ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Panamagate case.
This alarmed the PTI chairman who instantly changed his stance on the PSL final and pointed his guns at the federal and Punjab governments for deciding to arrange the event in Lahore in the wake of serious security threats.
In addition, PTI insiders believe, the PML-N had planned pro-N-League political sloganeering in the stadium during the match in order to glorify the PSL achievement of the federal government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“Arranging this kind of event and giving it a political flavour was something going the PML-N’s way. They were taking all the credit for hosting the mega event’s final in the face of serious security challenges. Something needed to be done,” said a senior PTI leader, requesting anonymity.
He, however, admitted that the PTI chairman “played it rash” in dealing with the issue.
“His (Khan’s) selection of words was poor and unwise. He further infuriated the public and political circles by getting reactive to the criticism in an immature manner,” the source said.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah rejected that the PTI’s opposition to the PSL final was linked to the party’s fear that the PML-N was politically cashing in on the situation.
“How come the PTI supporters in huge number from Peshawar and elsewhere managed to watch the match in the Qaddafi Stadium if the Punjab government wanted to deny them this opportunity?
“The tickets were distributed by the Bank of Punjab. Do you think anybody outside Punjab would have managed to make their way to the stadium had our provincial government not wanted?” he told The Express Tribune.
“It’s not the PTI’s fear but their sick mentality.”
On the Panamagate case, he said the issue is for the Supreme Court to deal with.
“And when the apex court is already dealing with the matter, thinking that political parties would resort to influence the court’s ruling reflects a childish mentality.
Another senior PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, referred to ‘Go Nawaz Go’ slogans chanted by PTI supporters at the PSL final on March 5 when PSL Chairman Najam Sethi was delivering a speech.
“Now, tell me who resorted to political motives, them or us?”
Zar Gul Khan, the PTI regional president and political coordinator to K-P chief minister, said the federal and Punjab governments initially tried to prevent PTI supporters – mainly from Peshawar and other parts of K-P – from watching the PSL final in the stadium.
“But, when Peshawar Zalmi made its way to the final, and considering that the team’s huge support base comprised PTI supporters, the PML-N governments at the Centre and Punjab changed their plan, fearing public backlash.”
Asked to comment on anti-PM slogans shouted by the PTI supporters at the final match, he said, “When you make a political speech at a sports event, don’t expect a ‘non-political’ reaction,” he referred to the chairman PSL’s speech.
Presently, things look to have heated up after Khan was spotted as labelling foreign PSL players, who played the final match in Lahore, as ‘phateechar’ (useless) and ridiculing them in a leaked video of his meeting with a select group of journalists on Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2017.