PTI to change date of Islamabad show

LAHORE - PTI is most likely to change the schedule of Islamabad lockdown plan for few days. The decision was taken to avoid Sunday’s weekly holiday as they want to close all the official business on the day of shutdown, party leaders told The Nation yesterday.

The proposal was discussed in party’s Central Punjab chapter meeting in provincial capital during Imran Khan’s tour to chair different party meetings to devise a strategy for the lockdown plan. However, a final decision would be taken after party’s core committee meeting, likely to be held today in federal capital.

The PTI plan to lay a siege to the federal capital can most likely to be shifted to November 2 or 3 from its previously announced date of October 30 (Sunday), said the party leaders who attended the Lahore meetings.

The PTI plans to shut down all the official business of the government in the federal capital on the launch of its lockdown, said the party leaders.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was part of the main meeting, said the rescheduling of their plan is more than likely but party’s core committee would make the final decision.

Asked about possibility of PTI’s tendering resignations from the assemblies if demands over Panama Papers probe are not met, he said the party had not deliberated on this as yet.

“Let’s see how the events unfold. The party could readjust its plan and opt for new options following the developments that would take place in the result of our lockdown plan,” said Mr Qureshi.

Addressing party meetings in Lahore, Imran Khan said, “PTI will stage sit-in on all the routes to the offices of federal government and will not allow any official business to take place when it launches its Islamabad shutdown plan.”

The date for Islamabad plan could be changed by a day or two to build more pressure on the government and achieve their goal of accountability of the influential and powerful following Panama Papers disclosures, he said. The new date will be made public on Sunday, he announced.

“Raiwind March was the semi-final and Islamabad March will be the final,” remarked PTI chief, lending credibility to fears that ugly clashes may take place between activists of the opposition party and law enforcers when they enter the well-guarded capital.

Official sources told this paper that intelligence agencies falling in the civilian domain have been tasked to assess the possible build-up of Imran Khan’s followers on the day of their show.

Special monitoring cells in the agencies have also started looking into all the pros and cons to deal with Imran’s threat. Daily Situation Reports (DSRs) are being prepared on the PTI preparations and being sent to relevant government officials, they disclosed.

The civilian agencies are keeping tabs on key PTI leaders who are organising the Islamabad show. The assessment work focuses Punjab, which is the citadel of the ruling party and PTI’s next target to achieve real supremacy in the political arena, they added.

The agencies assessing the situation are of the view that the matter should be dealt with a cool mind, as was done during Raiwind March on September 30, to avert any conflagration. Force must be avoided until it becomes indispensible to save the government writ from a total collapse, said the official sources.

Imran Mukhtar adds from Islamabad

"The protest date would be slightly changed and the new date would be within the first week of September," a PTI office bearer said on the condition of anonymity.

PTI wants to keep maximum pressure on the government during its protest and this could not be possible on a holiday because the movement of people in the city is very low during weekends, he said. There is also no attendance in the government offices on Sundays, he explained.

The party is also considering for a sit-in in Islamabad on the pattern of its 126-day long protest sit-in during 2014 but the chances of acceptance of this proposal are slim.

 Background discussions with some PTI leaders indicate that the party wanted to keep the Panama issue alive and could give another date of protest after this protest that is being described by political analysts as very critical for both PTI and the government.

PTI leader Faizul Hasan Chochan, a former deputy information secretary of the party, also confirmed that they would change the protest date and extend it by two or three days.

Though PTI has kept his cards close to the chest regarding their protest strategy but many within party believe that it is 'nerve checking' game between the opposition party and the government.

Different proposals are coming within the party but one thing is clear that PTI wants to keep the government at tenterhooks, a PTI leader remarked wishing anonymity.

He said in a lighter tone that PTI would not lockdown the capital rather the government itself would do this by placing the containers all around to bar the protestors from entering the city.

Official sources in the interior ministry said the government was deeply looking into the activities of PTI ahead of its protest date and it would make the final strategy to deal with the protestors after reviewing the whole situation.

This is not the first time PTI had changed its protest date as it had also changed the date of its Raiwind March. Imran Khan first had announced the date of Raiwind rally in a public really in Karachi but latter the date was changed after his party colleagues told him that the announced date was not practicable.

"We will not let the government function from October 30," Khan had warned in his September 30 address in Raiwind. He later announced that PTI would lock down the capital and not the government function from October 30 until either the prime minister resigns or he voluntarily presents himself for accountability over Panama Papers.

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