ISLAMABAD /LAHORE: A day after the surprisingly large show put up by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) in Lahore on Sunday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stressed that it is willing to work with all opposition parties to root out corruption – something that it insists cannot be done by a single political force.
For his part, Imran Khan, the leader of the PTI, has also said that he could consider entering into a dialogue with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif if he declares his complete assets.
The statements by both parties indicate accelerating intrigue in Pakistan politics – particularly in its largest province, the Punjab.
“No single political party can steer the country out of crisis and if the opposition agrees on one point of saving the country, working together is a possibility,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, opposition leader in the National Assembly, said at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday. “We will also contact people from the original PPP, not for the sake of power but for Pakistan,” he said.
Nisar also sought to dismiss speculation that PML-N is panicking after PTI’s rally in Lahore, long considered the stronghold of his party. “We welcome Imran Khan but politics is not a T20 match. You cannot conquer Pakistan through one demonstration,” he said. However, he said, we have several questions for Imran and would like to know who finances his rallies.
Also, Nisar said, it is surprising that Imran had filed a case against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain in the UK but had spared the party from criticism. He also criticised MQM’s pro-government rally, pointing out that some six months ago, Altaf was demanding that the president resign over corruption and now the party is expressing solidarity with Zardari.
Meanwhile, over in Lahore, encouraged by the incredible success of his party’s rally in Lahore, PTI chairperson Imran Khan invited ‘honest’ and “trapped” politicians from all political parties to join him.
“So many politicians are trapped in other parties but do not leave them for fear of their political future. They should leave and join the PTI,” Imran told reporters at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport before leaving for China on Monday.
There has been speculation that seasoned politicians, such as Pakistan Peoples Party’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, are considering joining the PTI.
Talking about Sunday’s massive rally, he said that his people are a force which will destroy older political parties. “People will forget 1970 after seeing the unprecedented revolution that my people will bring in Pakistan,” he said.
Many of Imran’s critics have said that although PTI had managed to pull out a huge crowd of youngsters, it cannot be used as an indication of the party’s eventual success in the 2013 general elections because they might not vote.
“The Supreme Court has already ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to register 3.5 million new voters. Due to social media, the young generation is aware of its right to vote and those who are under-age are asking their parents to register their votes,” Imran responded, reiterating that seeing the pervasive corruption, rising unemployment and lawlessness and the unavailability of water and electricity, the youth has decided to support him.
He said that he could consider entering into a dialogue with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif if he declares his complete assets. He said that his party has set up a cell to collect details of politicians’ assets and as soon as they have enough material, they will move the SC and the ECP.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY QAMAR ZAMAN IN ISLAMABAD)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2011.