KARACHI: While social media websites were abuzz with a Salman Rushdie tweet about Imran Khan, his party was busy welcoming new members to its growing list of disgruntled members of major political parties.
Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning author of Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses, tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that “30 years ago @ImranKhanPTI was a fan at my 1982 Delhi lecture and 100% secular. Now my work ‘humiliates’ his ‘faith’. Which is the real Imran?” The Imran Khan of 2012 is now the leader of a political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), that expects it will be successful in the next general elections. PTI Sindh president Naeemul Haque addressed a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday evening to welcome ex-Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) veteran Shireen Khan and Malik Aslam Khan, formerly of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional.
Khan, who was a member of the PPP’s Sindh council and had contested the PS-93 provincial assembly seat in the 2002 general elections, said, “There needs to be a change in the system. We need to stop fighting this war that has been forced on us.” He said he was disappointed by the PPP in the last four years because of the spike in terrorist attacks and how people’s attention had been diverted from ‘real issues’.
PTI’s Haque said that the party’s December 25 rally in Karachi was themed on national unity so that people from all ethnicities and areas could unite. He criticised the government for increasing petroleum product prices. “Our party’s economic experts say this measure is only to support the government’s excessive spending.” He also hit out at the Coast Guards and the Pakistan Navy for blocking roads to set up checkpoints. “Do not unite to stifle the people,” Haque said, as he demanded that the navy commander take notice.
Haque also condemned the police firing teargas shells at protesting teachers on Monday night, and also noted that there had been no executions in the country despite the daily killings in the city. “The country is looking to us that we will be in the government and Imran Khan will become prime minister,” Haque said.
The party’s vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi is currently preparing for a rally in Umerkot on February 19, as part of its efforts to gain a following in Sindh. Qureshi announced he would join PTI at a major rally in Ghotki on November 27 and has been meeting with Sindh nationalist leaders in an attempt to win their support. PTI will also try and organise a two-day tour of Sindh by Khan at the same time. PTI chief Imran Khan, who recently attended the World Economic Forum in Davos with Jahangir Tareen, who is leading policy development for the party, is also expected to be in Karachi on February 11 or 12. Khan, however, will be forced to compete for attention if he arrives on that weekend, given that Karachi will then be hosting the annual literature festival and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council rally.
Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that the Umerkot rally will be on ‘January 19’ instead of ‘February 19’. The error has been fixed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.