LAHORE: Despite the emergence of a window for reconciliation between the government and protesting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday, the latter seems to have lost none of its steam for a shutter-down protest in Faisalabad on December 8.
PTI’s Punjab wing said on Wednesday that it was still gearing up for the shutter-down strikes first in Faisalabad on December 8, and then Lahore on December 15, adding that they will also respond to the countrywide shutter-down strike on December 18.
Chairman PTI Imran Khan had made calls for city and countrywide shutdowns as part of his ‘Plan C’ announced on November 30 in Islamabad.
“There is no confusion within party ranks regarding talks and proceeding with the calls for shut down. It is our resolve that we will go ahead with the call for shut down,” PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
“When they [government] feel the heat, only then will they give in.”
While the PTI chairman had initially called for shutting down Lahore on December 4, this date was pushed to December 15 on Monday following a high-level party meeting in Islamabad.
While the party had at the time explained the date revision as a tactical reschedule owing to other protests and rallies scheduled for the same day in Lahore, Chaudhry said the decision was taken owing to shortage of preparation time.
“The date for Lahore’s shut down was extended because it was too short a notice to mobilise the city. But we decided to go ahead with Faisalabad as per schedule.”
“We are mentally ready for the government’s reaction during our protests. This is our constitutional right and we have said we would not resort to violence.”
Chaudhry said the party will reach out to all stakeholders including trade unions, doctors, lawyers, teachers and the ordinary man, urging them to support PTI’s cause.
Gearing up for Lahore
Meanwhile, the PTI’s Lahore district leadership has started preparations for bringing Lahore to a halt on December 15.
District level meetings have been initiated to discuss the strategy for the call made by the party chief.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, PTI Lahore district’s information secretary Farrukh Javed Moon said they had decided to block six entry points of the city including Shahdara, Qainchi chowk, Shalimar chowk, Thokar Niaz and Sangian bridge. Mall Road too will be blocked.
“These entry points would be blocked for traffic,’ he said. “We are ready to face the consequences resulting from our protest.”
Talks with government
Regarding the resumption of talks with the government, Chaudhry said their party was, in principle, ready for talks. However, he lamented that recent round of talks with the government had reflected their lack of seriousness for meaningful dialogue.
“The government has made a mockery of talks. They only want to gain some more time”.
He refuted reports that the government and PTI were engaged in talks at any level.
“Even if it were, the provincial leadership will continue their struggle and go ahead with the protest until justice is served,” he said. “The government would need to show flexibility and agree to a time bound investigation. I am under the impression they [government] won’t come to the table unless we are out on streets.”
Moon added that so far no instructions had been received from the central party leadership regarding the cancellation of their protests.
The district body is expected to hold another meeting before the December 15 strike.
No consultation on appointment of CEC
Chaudhry said the party had not been consulted regarding the appointment of a new chief election commissioner.
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