A weak show for a great cause

It was certainly a poor show, organised on the shortest day of the year, for a great cause. While Lahore is a city of about 20 million people, only a few thousand turned up to join the rally, announced by Imran Khan many days ago. And since Jamaat-i-Islami and Awami Muslim League supporters were also among the participants, the share of the PTI followers was further diluted.The rally was held as a mark of protest against the sky-high prices, which is everybody’s problem. And since majority of the people are inflation victims a big show was being expected. But the turnout was disappointing by all standards. The Jamaat-i-Islami alone could bring more people on the roads for this cause. But it appears that for reasons best known to its leadership this party also did not take much interest in making its presence felt at the rally, at a time when the process for the local elections is already in progress and expediency demanded it take an active part in the protest to attract more support. A poor show will now provide the ruling PML-N with an opportunity to argue that the PTI and the Jamaat have failed to mobilise the people and are losing popular support.The Sunday rally had just no comparison with the October 31, 2011 show organised by the PTI at Minar-i-Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of people had participated in it, which took the PTI’s popularity graph to new heights. It was after that show that many important leaders changed their political loyalties and joined hands with the former cricket hero, making him a formidable political entity.The 2011rally had panicked the PML-N which regarded Lahore as its stronghold. It was after that event that the Punjab government launched various schemes to win the support of the youth. The Minar-i-Pakistan show was also one of the major factors behind the PTI’s encouraging performance in the May 11 general elections.But what will happen now?It’s true that the PTI’s very decision to hold the rally against the price hike forced the Punjab government to take immediate measures to bring down prices of all essential items. Monitoring teams were constituted by the chief minister to keep a watchful eye on profiteers and hoarders. And it was the result of such steps that prices came down by more than 50 per cent. Fruits and vegetables which sold for Rs 100 plus a kilo about a fortnight ago are much cheaper at present.But a poor rally would dampen the spirits of the PTI supporters and adversely affect the party’s performance in the local elections, due to be held in the last week of the next month.This scribe had written only a few days ago that in the presence of elected assemblies there is no justification for protests on roads. Assemblies are the right forum to discuss all public problems, where the government can respond to all points raised by opposition parties. After what he saw at the Sunday rally, the PTI chairman must think once again whether there is really a need for more rallies he has announced for Sindh and Rawalpindi. It would have been better for him to tell the finance minister from the platform of the National Assembly that the government can raise Rs 300 billion by persuading the three million untaxed rich people to pay Rs 100,000 each. Such a step, he argues, would enable the country to reduce its dependence on foreign loans.Other parties could also give their points of view on the subject, after which it would be possible for the people to assess how rational or otherwise is the PTI’s recipe.Likewise, the National Assembly is the right forum where Imran Khan should tell the prime minister and other important leaders that they should bring back to Pakistan their wealth abroad. Once the matter is raised in presence of the prime minister, he would be left with no option but to tell the nation whether or not he has assets abroad and why he is not bringing the same back to the country.The PTI chairman was absolutely right when he pointed out on Sunday that a man appointed by the prime minister as NAB chairman could not be expected to hold his appointing authority accountable. But this again is an issue which should be raised in parliament, not on the streets.Why huge amounts are being spent on the governor houses, the occupants of which are just powerless, is a valid question asked by the PTI chairman. But this also should be taken up in the parliament. Experienced parliamentarians can find several ways to raise various issues in a manner that the government has to come up with its point of view. But Imran Khan’s critics say that before raising fingers at the poor performance of the PML-N government, he should prove that the KPK is a better-governed province and people there are not facing the kind of problems the residents of other federating units are.

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