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Stage set for PTI’s Raiwind march

LAHORE: Several thousand supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from different parts of the country reached Adda Plot on Raiwind Road on Thursday to participate in the “accountability movement” seen by many as a “do-or-die” act of Imran Khan.

Caravans of supporters started pouring in the city a day ahead of a march on Raiwind being organised by the PTI to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family to explain their position over “proof of their corruption” published in the Panama Papers some six months ago.

A stage was being erected and seating arrangements were being made till late night in Adda Plot — close to the prime minister’s Jati Umra residence.

Mass gathering started picking up momentum late in the evening as the PTI leaders, including its chairman Imran Khan, led rallies from different parts of Lahore and Raiwind to the protest venue.

Mr Khan is already in an aggressive mood and has announced that he will send a strong message to Mr Sharif as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of skirmishes along the Line of Control.

Mr Khan says he has exhausted all forums, including peaceful protests, and hinted that he may move his party to second stage of an “aggressive agitation” to compel the prime minister and his family to explain how they have set up offshore companies and stashed huge money and bought expensive flats abroad.

Talking to journalists, he said his party had planned the march to send a message to Mr Sharif but now, in the backdrop of alleged Indian “surgical strikes”, it would also send a strong message to the Indian premier. “I will effectively respond to Narendra Modi which Nawaz Sharif has so far failed to do.”

In the wake of alerts that Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing and its Afghan counterpart had planned terrorist activities to target the PTI march, Mr Khan sounded undeterred, saying such threats had always been conveyed whenever the party planned to raise voice against the rulers’ corruption and rigging in 2013 general elections.

He said the government was afraid of the PTI and employing ‘mean tactics’ to deter people from participating in the march. But, he added, the nation was united and would express unity by joining him at the Raiwind march in a bid to “oust the corrupt mafia” from the corridors of power.

When asked whether India had launched cross-border strikes to “save somebody in Pakistan”, he said Mr Modi’s statement that Mr Sharif’s had made the speech at the United Nations “under pressure” implied that the latter was under pressure from Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and did not himself want to highlight Indian atrocities against Kashmiris.

“The army chief and the entire nation are on the same page,” the PTI chief said.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has warned that the PTI will be solely responsible for any mishap in the wake of the threat alerts.

Meanwhile, Faisal Vawda, PTI leader from Karachi, met Imran Khan and briefed him about the party’s strategy to face the tactics employed by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Punjab government to disturb the peaceful march on Raiwind.

The PTI has set up a helpline to disseminate information about any untoward incident and the “PML-N’s Gullus”, a reference to rowdy elements allegedly patronised by the ruling party.

Many caravans of PTI supporters will reach Lahore on Friday (today). On Thursday, the party workers in four-wheelers and motorcycles moved in the city while raising slogans against Mr Sharif and his government.

Imran Khan visited the protest venue in Adda Plot late night and said people’s unity would help send the “looters of national wealth” behind the bars.

In the evening, PTI senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Wagah Border and witnessed flag lowering ceremony. He said Pakistan had the ability to effectively respond to India’s ceasefire violations along the LoC. He said India was living in fool’s paradise if it thought that it could unnerve Pakistan by stopping water or withdrawing from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

The nation would respond to India and “a trailer will be shown at the Raiwind march,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2016

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