Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is furious with his party’s top leaders for failing to mobilise supporters for his long march to Islamabad, according to reports on Friday.
According to Geo News anchorman Shahzeb Khanzada, the PTI chairman reportedly expected far larger crowds, assuming that people would turn out on their own, as they did shortly after his government was deposed.
Khan’s rage appears to stem from the fact that voters only showed out in Lahore, where the PTI holds 83 National Assembly seats and 158 provincial assembly seats, in small numbers.
The PTI did not engage in any political activities in Sindh, despite some spontaneous movement around Karachi’s Numaish Chowrangi. In Rawalpindi, many did not show up, and even PTI leaders looked to have vanished.
The PTI chairman is claimed to be enraged by the dismal turnout of both citizens and PTI leaders in all of these cities, questioning why, after a major political event just a few weeks before, Lahore witnessed such a low turnout for the march.
When asked about Imran Khan’s displeasure with how they handled the situation, PTI leaders responded with information about the gap between the statement and the reality of the long march.
The PTI leaders claimed that the chairman did not allow them enough time to prepare. They revealed that they had cautioned Imran Khan that setting May 25 as the date for the march was a bad idea because they needed to prepare transportation and logistics: how would people get there? Where would they be able to stay? Food? Logistics?
They claim they urged Imran Khan to postpone the meeting for a few days. However, the PTI chairman maintained a sense of surprise over the government, expressing fear that if the deadline was extended, the administration would be able to plot to stop the march.
The PTI leaders told Geo Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath that they had told Imran Khan that an active PTI supporter usually attends jalsas and protests on his or her own — with the caveat that, aside from supporters from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI does not have supporters elsewhere who would brave the police, tear gas, or the heat to try to reach Islamabad.
The dharna would not have been prolonged without Tahirul Qadri’s workers in 2014. Instead of spending the entire day at the sit-in, PTI supporters used to return home, according to their commander.
PTI insiders told Geo ASKKS that they tried to explain to Imran Khan that the long march would not be a good idea without a thorough plan, and that the announcement of a dharna would end up being more of an issue for the PTI. They also agreed that threatening to arrive in the capital without a set date would be a considerably more effective technique.
Others in the party, contrary to Imran’s plans, had hoped that this threat would keep the pressure on both the ‘neutrals’ and the government. Imran Khan, on the other hand, was certain that the government would buckle even before the march reached Islamabad; that the police would be unable to stop such a massive crowd; and that the ‘neutrals’ and the government would be unable to sustain such a show of people power.
According to PTI officials, Imran Khan appears to be listening to a small group of people close to him rather than lawmakers who are more experienced in traditional constituency politics.
The internal story of the PTI right now, as summarised by Shahzeb Khanzada, appears to be a tale of a series of disappointments, with supporters angry that the party did not hold a dharna despite having announced one. Imran is furious with his party’s leaders for failing to mobilise supporters to travel to Islamabad or hold protests in their own cities. PTI leaders are angry that they were not given enough time to prepare in the first place, and that Imran Khan is not listening to wiser advice now.