ISLAMABAD - Following a cold response from the opposition parties as well as from within the party to the unilateral decision of Imran Khan to announce Raiwind march, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf  yesterday backpaddled from its earlier announcement to march towards the residences of the ruling Sharif family.

The party also showed flexibility to change the date of its much-hyped protest rally over the government’s failure to get probed Panama leaks under the terms of reference (ToRs) of the joint opposition.

Stepping back from an earlier announcement that the party would march on to the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, the major opposition party now wants to hold a rally to a place near Raiwind, which is five kilometers away from the residence of Sharif family, the sources within the party informed.

Imran Khan on September 6 while addressing a rally of his followers in Karachi had announced to hold Raiwind march on September 24, but the announcement got a cold shoulder from the leaders of some opposition parties. Even Khan had to face resistance within his party as some party leaders said that he had taken a solo flight without consulting other opposition parties.

“We have decided to hold Raiwind rally but we will not go to their (the residence of Sharif family),” PTI chairperson Imran Khan said after holding a meeting with the senior leaders of his party at Bani Gala. “We are not going to surround homes of the Sharif family, but Raiwind is not just Sharif Town.” He said that his party would go for Raiwind march even if it had to take a solo flight but clarified that the protest demonstration should not be taken as an attack on ruling Sharif family’s houses.

Khan claimed that the PTI had never attacked anyone’s house in its 20-year politics rather it was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had taken people to the village (Choti Zareen) of former President Farooq Ahmed Leghari. The PML-N is a fascist party that was brought up by military dictators, he claimed.

However, Imran said that his party could change the date of the protest if some parties wanted to join their rally but this protest rally would be held at least before the start of holy month of Muharram ul Haram. We are making contacts with other opposition parties to finalize the dates of the rally, he said.

The close aides of Khan have advised him not to show his last cards by giving a hype to the Raiwind march as the protest movement of the party would fizzle out if this march either could not get much support of the masses or failed to produce desired results, a senior PTI leader said. He stated that Khan had been advised to hold a rally as a symbolic protest only, and the party should continue with such protests in future.

When asked why the PTI was withdrawing from its announcement to march towards Raiwind, he said that such rallies were symbolic in nature. 

Imran Khan while talking to the media at Bani Gala claimed that this would be a historic rally and they were inviting people from across the country and would go alone if others did not join it.

Khan condemned inaction of NAB over the Panama leaks and said heads of SECP, SBP, FIA did not turn up before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that was going to discuss the leaks.

“I want to ask all Pakistanis that name me one democratic institution that is functioning properly? From the NAB to FBR... Any institution? In a democracy there is no political interference in institutions,” he said. Instead of strengthening democracy they destroyed institutions and destroying it further to save corruption.

“We are just deliberating on timelines but have no doubt that the Raiwind march will be historic,” he said. Are they threatening to use Punjab police like they did on Model Town protesters? They will see how the public will respond then; the public will shut down the city if they used violence against the common man again during Raiwind March, he said.

Talking about the references against him, he said that the decision of the Speaker in this regard was worst as references against Nawaz Sharif were rejected although his name was flashed in the world in connection with the Panama Papers.

Iftikhar Durrani, the head of PTI’s Central Media Department, said that the exact venue at Raiwind is yet to be decided.  He dispelled the impression that PTI is withdrawing from its previous announcement because of the cold response of opposition. He said that the date of the protest would be changed only if opposition parties wanted so.