ISLAMABAD: Headcount of political workers will matter the most, as emotional and charged PTI workers – with a token presence of political allies – are all geared up to hold a protest demonstration in the heart of the federal capital today (Sunday) – a stone’s thrown away from the parliament – over alleged rigging in that last general election.
The dilly-dally tactics by the election tribunals in more than 60 election-related pending cases is being termed as a major issue that prompted the PTI to adopt street agitation instead of raising the issue in the parliament.
The PTI had originally announced a protest movement, but after a lot of brainstorming at the leadership level, a reality check was applied at the last moment. It is now a simple public meeting in which PTI leaders claim to amass up to a hundred thousand workers. However, the PML-N government insists it will be a gathering of a few thousand.
D-Chowk is the same venue used by Dr Tahirul Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) for the protest march-cum-sit-in he staged in 2013 to demand election reforms-cum-cleansing of the system before the May 11 election.
However, Dr Qadri could not accomplish his mission despite all the political rhetoric, amid allegation of “secret support” from some quarters of the garrison.
Qadri had claimed a presence of three-million-plus people at the peak of his sit-in at that time, but independent observers insisted the participation never swelled by more than 50,000 at any point of time.
As Dr Qadri sits impatiently thousands of miles away, Imran takes on the streets of the capital for his show of strength, which many say is just a ‘warning’ for the incumbent PML-N government about what might be in the offing during the next weeks and months if it (the government) failed to deliver, especially on election reforms.
For the moment, the PTI has planned for only four speeches – to be delivered by its leadership, including the final “decree” from Imran Khan.
Party leaders Javed Hasmi and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as well as Sheikh Rashid, the leader of his own political party (Awami Muslim League), will address the moot. A delegation of Jamaat-e-Islami and a rally of AML will also join the PTI moot. The main stage for the event will be established while putting eight containers together, and will be reserved for the 33-member core committee of the PTI.
The stage is expected to be 80 feet in length and 20 feet in width. Similarly, a second stage has been set up for the elected parliamentarians of the PTI, while a third stage of the same size will be set up for media coverage, besides a separate stage for senior journalists and anchorpersons.
The PTI obtained the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the capital administration for the moot with a condition that the NOC could be withdrawn at any time without any prior notice, party leaders said.
The administration suggested that it had no objection over the holding of a public gathering at D-Chowk from 10:30am until midnight, but warned that in case of any violation, action would be taken against the organisers under the law.
It also said that entry to the Red Zone would be banned, while the rules of “no weapon” and “no baton” at the venue would be strictly observed.
The administration said that the organisers of the event would stand responsible of the security of the participants. For the purpose, the PTI had announced to depute 400 workers who would be coordinating with the administration and security institutions, the party leaders said.
Around 22 walkthrough gates would be installed at the entry points of the venue, and after through frisking, the participants would be allowed to enter the venue.
The social media cell of the PTI would play a pivotal role in the instant delivery of information to the masses, and its “Insaf Radio” would broadcast live speeches of the PTI leadership, sources said.
PTI sources claimed that their manual monitoring system had informed them that more than 100,000 workers would participate in the protest, while security agencies were expecting a gathering of about 50,000 people.
The PTI said it would make seating arrangements for 40,000 participants at the venue, a claim that would be a major bone of contention between the Imran-led parties and the PML-N government today (Sunday).