Oct 292016

RAWALPINDI: Three days before Imran Khan’s plan to siege Islamabad, confusion prevailed in his party about the venue where its workers would assemble.

“There is no coordination between the leadership and the workers and the latter have to go to the Banigala mansion of Imran Khan to get information,” a senior PTI leader told Dawn.

“The party changed two plans in the last 24 hours. On Friday night, the local leaders were asked to make arrangements for blocking Faizabad but the idea was dropped on Saturday afternoon. A press conference by Imran Khan was also canceled soon after an announcement. Now the local leaders have been informed about a public gathering in Attock on October 31.”

Activists say they are willing to respond to Imran Khan’s call but do not know where to assemble

He said there was an uncertainty among the workers as they did not know where they would gather on November 2. “Earlier, it was announced that the protesters would gather at Faizabad up to Zero Point but after the activists started assembling at Banigala, it was assumed that the rally would start from there.”

He said the PTI had formed committees to contact its workers but the mobile phones of the party’s Punjab north and the district chapter heads remained switched off. He said PTI MPAs from Rawalpindi were busy holding photo sessions in different areas.

“Internal differences among the PTI office-bearers and its five members of the Punjab Assembly may cost the party heavily as the workers are not yet mobilised,” he said.

“Nobody knows about the plan of the party in case roads were blocked on Nov 2,” said Asif Akbar, a resident of Satellite Town.

He said for the public meetings the party should have informed the workers a week ago so that they could reach the venues on time. “We are willing to respond to Imran Khan’s call but there is no guidance,” he said.

Tahir Malik, a resident of Millat Colony, said the party workers in the area were willing to go to Islamabad but no one was available to provide any information whether they should assemble at Banigala or Faizabad.

He said the strategy of the party to gather workers in case the roads were closed was also unclear. “We have been asked to watch private TV channels to get updates,” he said.

PTI MPA Rashid Hafeez admitted that there was confusion among the workers but said an announcement would be made a day before November 2. He said he was also waiting for the party’s guideline to assemble the workers.

“There is a plan to go to Islamabad but a decision will soon be made for the workers to gather at Faizabad or Banigala,” he said.

Another PTI MPA, Arif Abbasi, also agreed that there was confusion.

He said he would inform the workers and supporters about the final decision of the party leadership as soon as he came to know about it.

“The workers are ready but there is a need to mobilise them by the district and the Punjab north chapters,” he said.

When contacted, PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq said the party had asked its workers to reach Islamabad on November 2 but the venue was yet to be disclosed.

“Zero Point will be the targeted area. The government will close all the roads with containers and for this reason there is confusion about the venue for the assembly of the workers or the starting point of a rally.”

He said the workers would reach Islamabad from Banigala and Faizabad or other areas.

“The problem is the government is taking action against the workers and it will be difficult for the workers to gather at one point on November 2. The workers will be asked to gather at the point where the police would stop them from entering Islamabad,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2016

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