Hours before Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is scheduled to execute the shutdown of Faisalabad under “Plan C”, the party has claimed that the government has made no serious effort to resume stalled talks.
The comments came on Sunday as PTI chairman Imran Khan addressed the residents of Faisalabad in a press conference on the eve of an expected city-wide shutdown. Making a commitment to remain peaceful, Imran said “I am sorry, we did not want to create problems for the people of Faisalabad,” but added that while all parties agreed that the elections were rigged, only PTI had undertaken peaceful protests for an unprecedented 114 days for an investigation to ensure free and fair elections.
He added that his party had “the street power to shut down the entire country,” and it would be a blunder on the part of government if they attempted to arrest him. He called on the trading community to join the PTI shutdown on Monday, if they felt that their demands were just.
Imran, who has called for the constitution of a judicial commission and a joint investigation team to investigate allegations of massive rigging in the 2013 elections, said, “we will not withdraw our resignations [from the National Assembly] even if the commission says, which I think it would not, that there was no rigging in general elections.”
Meanwhile, the head of the government negotiating team, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the media that PTI had so far not considered its proposal to ‘postpone’ the Faisalabad shutdown as a ‘goodwill gesture’ for the resumption of talks. “We will see what they do tomorrow and then take a decision,” he added.
Government backed out
Providing details of negotiations with the ruling PML-N, Imran Khan said that the government had agreed on the constitution of a judicial commission and a joint investigation team comprising members of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB). “We have documentary proof in this regard but they backed out when pressure was reduced,” he added.
Imran said that the PTI had withdrawn its core demand of resignation of prime minister but the government was not serious in constitution of judicial commission. “The government can announce a judicial commission in 48 hours, but it is unwilling because it did not pursue the matter after writing a letter to the Chief Justice on August 13,” he added.
The PTI chief announced that his party would file a case on Monday [today] against the government for spending Rs15 billion on advertisements.
Taking the credit for the recent reduction in petrol prices and the reported reduction in corruption index for Pakistan, the PTI leader said that these developments were a result of “our protest”.
Responding to a question on appointment of Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Imran said that his party had no objections to his appointment to the office, but called for the resignation of the other four provincial members of the CEC. “They have no justification to stay in office when they failed to hold free and fair elections,” he added.
Nine venues for protests
All set to flex its political muscles in Faisalabad today, PTI activists are prepared to stage demonstrations at nine places in a bid to choke the movement of vehicular traffic in the industrial hub.
The protests will be held in Gattwala, Nishatabad, Akbar Chowk, PMC Chowk, Novelty Bridge, Jinnah Colony Gates, Chenab Chowk, Abdullah Pur Chowk and Jhall Khannuana Chowk.
However, the government has also taken measures to stop the party from paralysing the city, which is regarded as the commercial hub of Punjab.
To ensure success of its call, the PTI chief Imran Khan is scheduled to lead the rally, which will reach Faisalabad in a big caravan from Motorway Interchange. He is also to address the demonstrators at Faisalabad clocktower.
The PTI chief has also requested Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) leader Sahibzada Hamid Raza to support the PTI’s call and join the rally.
On the other hand, the government has also taken a number of steps to frustrate the PTI’s shutdown call.
Hours before the planned shutdown, the local administration imposed a ban on pillion riding – by invoking section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in Faisalabad district on December 7 and 8 – and impounded 278 motorcycles.
The police also conducted raids to arrest the PTI activists, leaders and workers to put pressure on them to stay away from the Monday rally.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2014.