LAHORE - In what appears to be retreat from the prolonged Azadi and Inqilab sit-ins in the federal capital without achieving the desired targets, PTI and PAT both are shifting the focus of their protest from Islamabad to other parts of the country.

Apparently, the PTI Azadi campaign, led by Imran Khan, and the PAT Inqilab drive, headed by Dr Tahirul Qadri, have so far failed to achieve the desired targets and are losing impact in the federal capital, while the government which seemed to be under a severe pressure in the first half of these campaigns, is now feeling relaxed.

Asad Umer, senior PTI leader and Imran Khan’s aide, informing The Nation of the reasons for change of protest strategy on Wednesday, claimed: “We are not retreating from Azadi sit-in, Islamabad, but are taking the campaign to the people in their cities in a bid to make them part of the revolution.”

“We are getting the feedback that the impact of the Azadi movement should reach each citizen of the country which could not be achieved by sitting in the federal capital alone and that’s why I advised the party chairman to launch “Go Nawaz Go” drive under the banner of Azadi movement. In the first phase, we staged a powerful show in Karachi and the next one will be staged in Lahore on September 28, the self-proclaimed stronghold of the PML-N.”

When asked about the failure of the party leaders’ performance to organise a mammoth show in the federal capital, he insisted that it was a successful show of power and expressed the hope that who failed to deliver on the launch of Azadi drive would make a comeback at Minar-e-Pakistan.

About the next stations of Azadi-cum-Go Nawaz Go campaign, he revealed: “We will go to all major cities of the country, including urban areas of Sindh and Balochistan, but a strategy will be chalked out after Eidul Azha. The party will continue Azadi sit-in in Islamabad besides holding public meetings across the country.”

When asked about the timeframe or deadline for achieving the campaign’s targets, Asad said: “Azadi drive is result-oriented, but no timeframe for achieving its targets which are quite difficult can be given. “

About the possibilities of a political deal, he said: “The government hasn’t accepted any of our major demands so far. We believe in negotiations and the government should express sincerity in the option of judicial commission which is our top most priority after the prime minister’s resignation.”

He added re-election or midterm elections would be only a viable option if the government didn’t pursue serious dialogue.

Asad, replying to a query about the cost of the Islamabad sit-in, revealed: “The financial cost of the sit-in is Rs 1.25 million per day.” In the light of Asad’s revelation the monthly cost of the sit-in is Rs 37.5 million.

About the reports of foreign funding for the Azadi drive, the PTI senior leader revealed, “We had been offered financial assistance by an international power through its official channels two years back, but Imran Khan refused to accept it after consulting the party’s top leadership.”

However, he declined hinting at the international power which made the offer to PTI two years back despite the repeated requests. Asad said, “PTI holds annual audit of the party funds collected from local and international donors,” adding the exercise would be carried out at the end of this year and the report made public.

Answering a question about a secret understanding with MQM for the success of Karachi show, he refuted such reports as false and baseless and argued MQM had staged protest demonstrations against the PTI’s Karachi public meeting.

Meanwhile, MQM senior leaders told this scribe that though the party had no secret understanding with PTI, splinters and sidelined party support base took part in that show without any instructions from the party high command.

Dr Raheeq Abbasi, a close aide of Dr Tahirul Qadri, when contacted, restricted to a few words, said, “PAT will take the Inqilab message to all the corners of the country.” He added the party would announce its strategy before Eidul Azha or immediately after the religious festival.”

When asked if the likely shifting of Inqilab drive to other parts hinted at the evaporation of the revolution, he too like his PTI colleague insisted: “We are not retreating from Islamabad and remain in the federal capital till the acceptance of our demands.”

He claimed thousands of PAT activists would stage a protest demonstration outside the United Nations Building on the day of the prime minister’s address to the General Assembly.