Major opposition political parties on Saturday flayed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s decision not to attend the rally organized by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, under the pretext of virtual house arrest.
PTI insiders contended that the PTI chairman and his senior aides after a four-hour-long marathon debate opted to avoid possible arrest by arguing that “the real match is going to be played on November 2”.
Senior PTI leader Arif Alvi said that initiation of mega crackdown well before November 2 was a deliberate move by the government to sidetrack the senior leadership of the party. He added that the PTI will not fall to that trap by offering arrests before the scheduled protest, adding Sheikh Rasheed supports the PTI, and he did achieve his objective of addressing the scheduled rally where activists of the PTI were also in attendance.
“Every political party proceeds on its own strategy. It doesn’t matter whether Imran Khan went to Pindi or not, and the thing which matters is to make November 2 protest successful and Imran is needed with his people on that day,” he added. Other opposition political parties accused Imran Khan and his senior leadership of abandoning Sheikh Rasheed at the eleventh hour and maintained that a leader should always lead from the front especially at a time when his/her workers are out on the streets.
Qamar Zaman Kaira, Secretary Information of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said that his party leadership, from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto, had a long history of leading from the front. He cited Benazir Bhutto’s refusal not to leave Zardari House in 2007 as instructed by the Musharraf administration.
“She [Benazir] faced life threats, but she did not care and made a ‘dabang’ (fearless) entry at Liaquat Bagh, where she embraced martyrdom,” he stated. Kaira said that the PPP leadership has faced the worst atrocities during martial law regimes; their senior leadership has been tortured, imprisoned, baton charged and hanged. Colonel Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi (retd) of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan said that by not attending Sheikh Rasheed’s rally, Imran has proved that he is afraid of being arrested.
He said that Imran Khan’s decision to stay home under one pretext or the other at a time when his workers were being beaten, and facing tear gas shelling reflects his level of commitment and solidarity with his workers.
“He [Imran] opted to watch TV on a comfortable sofa at home while workers of his party were being arrested and sent to Adiala Jail. If this is the way Imran thinks he can mobilize people against the government, then it is his wishful thinking,” he added. Senator Muhammad Ilyas Bilour, a senior leader of Awami National Party (ANP), stated that Sheikh Rasheed is a leader while Imran Khan is ‘struggling to become one, but it will take him time’.
“If Imran Khan had made a commitment with Sheikh Rasheed that he would attend his rally then he should have been there no matter what. Sheikh Rashid did turn up at the venue at the appointed time in spite of heavy police presence,” he pointed out. Politics is about action and timing and Imran Khan failed to capture both and his ‘poster boys’ act like silent spectators when PTI workers were being rounded up by the police, he concluded.