ISLAMABAD: Anticipating a Supreme Court verdict against the Sharif family in the Panamagate case, the PTI leadership has decided to formally launch its campaign for next general elections by staging a ‘massive public rally’ this week – most probably on Friday – on Islamabad’s Parade Ground.
It is the same Parade Ground where the PTI staged on November 2 its last big gathering – the Thanksgiving Rally – organised after the party had called off its Islamabad lockdown plan in the wake of the Supreme Court’s announcement to take up the Panamagate case.
After the Islamabad showdown, the PTI is expected to stage more rallies in other big cities. A similar rally is already scheduled in Dadu district of Sindh on coming Saturday.
The decision to swing into election mode was taken in the party’s core committee meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday. The session, which was followed by the party’s media strategy committee meeting, was convened after the apex court announced to hand down its judgment in the Panamagate case on Thursday.
The meeting, chaired by Imran Khan, was attended by PTI lawmakers and other office-bearers. Giving out details of PTI’s campaign, the party’s North Punjab president, Amir Kiyani, said the party would formally launch a mass contact drive this week.
Another senior leader confirmed Imran has advised senior party leaders – especially from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – to stay in Islamabad for the next 72 hours in a bid to take the final decision to mobilise public for another ‘Thanksgiving’ rally after the announcement of SC’s judgment.
“Imran has also asked provincial and district leaders of the party to stay in their respective constituencies,” he said, adding that senior party leaders are of the view that irrespective of the SC’s judgment the PTI would have enough substance to shape its election campaign for the next general elections.
Addressing the media after the meeting, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi – who flew back to Pakistan on Imran’s request to attend the meeting – said the PTI chairman had asked the party leadership to be ready for a big rally which would be announced on a 24-hour notice.
“Whatever the apex’s court decision in Panamagate case, the people have already made up their mind on the issue. Whenever the PTI starts a mass contact drive, the ruling party starts crumbling,” he said.
Qureshi said the party spoke up for the people of Pakistan and cleared the misconception that the rulers did not care about corruption. “We have made it clear earlier that we would not allow the system to derail and want to take forward the accountability process,” he said.
PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haque said the party leaders have expressed reservations over ‘irresponsible’ and ‘intimidating’ behaviour of the PML-N ahead of the SC verdict. Haque was talking with reference to the banners hung up in different cities of Punjab by the PML-N in support of Premier Sharif.
“The PML-N has a history of attacking the superior court and the recent display of banners in some cities of Punjab ahead of the verdict on Panamagate case is reflection of that mindset,” he said.
Haque said the PTI leadership also discussed in detail the worst PML-N could do in case of a decision against the Sharif family. “The PML-N is trying to create an atmosphere of fear through security alerts and statement of ministers,” he said.
He said the government has tried its best to push the Panama issue under the carpet but the PTI and its workers kept it alive. “Had the PTI and its workers not stood for justice in the Panamagate case, the issue would have died down long ago,” he said.