Long march again

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DEFYING all expectations, PTI Chairperson and former Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Sunday that the party’s long march to Federal Capital would resume from Tuesday from Wazirabad – the same point where he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt last Thursday.

While addressing a press conference from the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Lahore, from where he was later discharged, the PTI chief said that he will address the march every day and that in the next 10-14 days the rally will reach Rawalpindi from where he will lead the party’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ march.

It was widely believed that the party would use the Wazirabad attack as a face saving to shelve its plan for a long march on Islamabad but the latest decision reflects its resolve to carry forward its programme despite various odds.

In fact, it was because of the disruption caused by the Wazirabad incident that the Capital Police had decided to send the personnel of Sindh Police and FC back to their parent departments but now their services have again been requisitioned to cope with the situation.

PTI is now focusing on a two-pronged strategy of staging protests in different parts of the country against the assassination attempt on the life of its leader and continuation of the march towards Islamabad to continue to build pressure against the Government.

Political opponents claim that the march is unlikely to produce the desired results as PTI could not manage to gather an impressive crowd in the initial days of the protest but much depends on its ability to make it a real power show when the rally reaches the Federal Capital.

There are also issues like exhaustion/fatigue caused by extraordinary duration of the march, weather conditions that are turning harsh due to onset of winter, the nature of security arrangements made by the Federal Government in collaboration with other national institutions to ensure maintenance of peace and daily routine within Islamabad and political and other developments during the intervening period that will surely have an impact on the overall outcome of the ongoing protest exercise by the PTI.

Analysts also point out that at the moment, the entire focus of the PTI was to influence the process of appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), which has to be initiated and completed this month in view of the public announcement of the incumbent Army Chief that he will not seek an extension and would retire on the due date.

As for elections, it is a remote possibility that these could be held immediately because of the winter and other economic and geo-strategic challenges.

In this backdrop, the long march might or might not help PTI achieve its stated/strategic objectives but it is quite clear that the uncertainty would harm economic interests of the country with attendant consequences for its people, who are already weary of the unprecedented price-hike.

The Government is doing its best to stabilize the economy, arrange funding from multiple external sources and provide relief to the masses but chaos and law and order situation could deprive it of the required focus.

Anyhow, now that the PTI has, for its own reasons, decided to resume the march, which would reach Islamabad in about two weeks, the intervening period should be used to find a negotiated solution to the differences.

PTI must realize that it could not pressurize the then Government in 2014 to resign despite the fact that its march had the patronage of the influential quarters at that time.

It is, therefore, unlikely that it could do so now when its march has no similar blessings and instead the Government and other institutions are on the one page to uphold the Constitution.

The Government should also realize that it cannot deliver as per expectations of the people until and unless there is peace and tranquility in the country.

As for the attack on the PTI leader, the Prime Minister has already requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a full bench of the apex court to probe the incident in a transparent manner and Imran Khan too has welcomed the initiative.

We hope the CJP would constitute a bench that enjoys the confidence of both sides and it would present its reports on a priority basis to help bring clarity to national politics.

 

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