Zaman Park: Imran Khan’s new political base

LAHORE         -    The plush Zaman Park neighbourhood in Lahore is the new political base of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan these days. The protest march he was leading on November 3 for onward journey to Islamabad, came to an abrupt end after the gun attack on Imran Khan and other party leaders at Wazirabad district of Punjab. Though the long march resumed from the point it ended over a week ago, Khan himself sits in his drawing room with glittery gold red furniture and the art pieces meeting visitors who are mostly the journalists from both the local and foreign media. Visibly, Imran Khan is on a repetition spree with over exposure from the media. He is generously giving interviews to the foreign and local media churning out the same kind of stuff with little alterations. Since his ouster from power, the PTI chief is undergoing a huge sense of political loss and an appalling betrayal of trust as he keeps talking about it over and over again with everyone he meets with. It is all about politicking and backstabbing. His speeches made at the long march rallies are no exception. His leg injuries have only added fuel to the fire. Senior PTI leaders, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Ch, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Omer Sarfraz Cheema, and a few others have been the frequent visitors in the last one week. Of late, Khan also hosted a veteran PPP leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Ch Parvez Elahi and Jamaat-e-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq to share details of the firing incident and his political struggle which he calls “Haqqiqi Azadi” (Real freedom from slavery). The tales of alleged betrayal by the military establishment, his being merely a figurehead in his four-year stint and NAB not being under his control are the usual topics in his meetings with the media persons and the politicians. “They (Establishment) could have easily saved my government if they wanted to since they have had a history of wielding political influence over parties”. It is also a mantra in the meetings. At times, he comes up with bizarre contradictions in his conversations. In a recent interview with a leading newspaper, Khan revealed that General Bajwa wanted Aleem Khan to be elected as the Punjab Chief Minister but since he was facing NAB cases he did not fall in his (Khan’s) choice. If the statement of PTI chief that establishment had been using the NAB for political maneuvering is taken as true, then it is hard to fathom why the establishment would push for the accountability bureau to tighten the noose around Aleem Khan’s neck when the latter’s name surfaced among one of the hot favourites for the coveted slot. Also, addressing the participants of the long march is now a daily routine with nothing new to say. Notably, following the abortive assassination attempt on the PTI leader, the long march protest has now turned into public rallies. A new rally is taken out every day from a new city with a new crowd. It is not a moving Azadi caravan anymore with the same set of supporters. In the last few days, the Zaman Park residence of Imran Khan has been turned into a small fortress with a heavy police contingent guarding the place. On Friday, trucks loaded with heavy bags of sand were seen parked outside the residence. After the arrival of Khan’s two sons, Salman and Qasim, the Zaman Park locality has virtually become a no-go area. Only the persons with prior appointment to meet the party chief are allowed to get inside. As the provincial capital is now the party headquarters, there is a strain in relations with the man sitting on Lahore’s throne. A lingering bad taste between Imran Khan and Ch Parvez Elahi over the issue of registration of FIR is not over yet. In the given situation, Khan has limited or no options to take confrontation with the PML-Q, an allied party in Punjab. He cannot ask the chief minister to dissolve the Punjab Assembly or bring some other man in his place. Presently, the chief minister is there to provide the much-needed security cover to the protest march which cannot move an inch if there is a rival government in Punjab. What had happened on the May 25 long march is quite obvious.

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