Ansar M Bhatti
ISLAMABAD: The former Prime Minister and head of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan has announced to spearhead a long march towards Islamabad most probably in the last week of the month. The political parties, by and large, do not choose the month of May for long marches and rallies because of scorching heat that restricts public mobility. However, the PTI had to do it now for it cannot afford to delay its movement anymore. There is no doubt that PTI, after the unfolding of the so-called ‘lettergate’ issue, has sought to improve and strengthen its popularity, which at one point seemed to have touched the lowest ebb. It was just a month ago that even the die-hard PTI workers had resolutely announced not to vote for Imran Khan keeping in view the three years and seven months performance of the PTI government. The youth; women voters and supporters especially seemed greatly disturbed with the PTI performance. Price hike; free ride of the dollar; lawlessness and so on and so forth were the key issues that had made all and sundry disappointed. In the light of the above, if the PTI government would complete its five year term, its defeat in the elections would have become certain.
But then surfaced the Lettergate issue and things dramatically turned into PTI’s favour. I held a consistent view from the outset that there was nothing substantive in the letter issue. It was a routine cable. And even if it sought a regime change in Pakistan, it was not something new. We have come across such communications and interventions even in the past that ultimately led to change of governments. Nevertheless, the way Imran Khan exploited the issue in his favour needs fulsome applause. He literally made a mountain out of molehill. And resultantly, he once again turns out to be the most popular leader of Pakistan. Imran Khan has a clear understanding of the fact that memories of Pakistani people are short-lived therefore he wanted to cash in on the situation fully sooner rather than later. That is why he dared to announce a long march in May. His ultimate destination, from the face of it, appears to be the D Chow, where he had previously staged a sit-in for 126 days against the PML N government with Nawaz Sharif at the helm of affairs at that time. It also remains a fact that despite the 126 days of sit-in Imran Khan and his allies he could not dislodge the then government.
Another important development that presumably has forced PTI to have an early long march relates to a possible smear campaign being launched against the PTI chairman by making public some videos that may contain indecent materials. The purpose of the campaign, as claimed by the PTI leadership, is to disparage the respect and credibility of the party chairman in the eyes of his voters and supporters and even the general public. This reported campaign may be launched before the long march in order to make sure that people do not take part in this drill. Only time will tell to what extent the anti-Imran Khan forces are able to cause a potential dent to the credibility of the ex Prime Minister, one thing is for sure the PTI chairman has successfully sold his narrative of foreign intervention or conspiracy that led to removal of his government.
Interestingly, the PTI chairman has suddenly started praising the armed forces of Pakistan despite the fact that when the lettergate issue appeared on the scene, he indirectly held the Establishment also responsible for his ouster. Thus, he chose to take the Establishment to task in his speeches and media interviews but not anymore. Analysts believe Imran’s this approach may help him not only have improved relations with the Establishment but contribute towards the success of his intended long march as well.
The PTI leadership is quite hopeful about the success of its venture and announcement of the date for the next elections as a result of it. According to its plans, elections in September or October would greatly help the PTI to return to power with an even bigger majority. The government on the other hand has its own plans. It wants to complete the remaining term come what may.
There is a consensus that the government can counter long march plans only through its good governance and resolution of problems faced by the common people. It needs not to repeat the mistakes of the PTI government. It needs to immediately bottle the inflation monster if it really wants to make its rule sustainable. While the dollar still remains out of control, the abnormally long power outages across the country have started taking a heavy toll on especially those living in the remote areas. A temporary respite in power cuts was witnessed on the Eid days but people expect this govt to do away with load-shedding once and for all.
Summing up, the PTI leadership has to work on all fronts including improvement of its relations with the international community, in order for its long march to meet with success. Imran Khan also has to keep in mind that if his theory of foreign intervention is true, then forces responsible for his removal would never like him to return to power any time soon. The PTI leadership has to admit the reality that it is simply not possible to survive in isolation. And particularly when Pakistan’s economic and defense related needs are directly linked to brotherly and friendly countries.