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Long march exposes chink in PTI’s armor in Punjab

PTI leaders say no main leader was ready to spend money on logistics

The long march of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has raised many alarm bells for the party in Punjab, especially in Lahore, as the local leadership failed to bring workers on the roads.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan led the long march from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while demanding fresh elections but it seemed that he did not achieve anything and left empty handed. Imran Khan managed to bring good crowd from KP, where his party is ruling but failed to gather support from Punjab that is the main battlefield to get the throne of Islamabad.

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On 25th May, when the long march started, the leadership of Punjab, and especially Lahore, couldn’t bring the workers on the roads due to many organizational lacunas. Only a few hundred people could be seen on the roads of Lahore and a handful of them could cross the Ravi bridge amid severe tear-gas and baton charge by the police.

In backdoor discussions, the PTI workers say that it was the utter failure of the local leadership that the party faced in Lahore that day. “There were no logistics for the workers as no transport was arranged by the local leadership,” said a worker. He said that the leadership couldn’t plan the long march well due to the internal differences in the local chapter.

No main leader was ready to spend money on the logistics, including the transportation and other arrangements. There was also no roadmap for the march unlike the marches staged by both the PML-N and PPP just a couple of weeks ago. The PPP had issued a proper roadmap of Bilawal’s march from Karachi to Islamabad, with stays in Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Lahore and Gujrat.

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Similarly, the long march conducted by Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz also had a roadmap from Lahore to Islamabad, with stays in Gujranwala, Jehlum and Rawalpindi. “The leadership of PPP and PML-N was seen leading the workers from the front but there was no one to lead us from Lahore,” the workers said. Only Hammad Azhar and Dr Yasmin Rashid could be seen showing some resistance in front of the police and all remaining leaders were nowhere to be seen.

Hammad Azhar managed to cross the Ravi bridge accompanied by a group of youngsters despite tear-gas shelling. The Punjab leadership of PTI preferred to go to the police station or tried to reach Islamabad alone only to show their faces to Imran Khan. No one, including Punjab President Shafqat Mehmood, Ijaz Ch, Lahore President Sheikh Imtiaz and other ticket holders, was seen leading the workers. “Instead of leading the march from KP, Imran Khan should have led the caravan from Zaman Park in Lahore,” said the workers.

It was a dismal performance by the PTI in Lahore keeping in view that the party has three MNAs and five MPAs from the city currently. In 2013, the party had one MNA and four MPAs from Lahore and it increased its tally to four MNAs and nine MPAs in 2018. It lost four MPAs just recently when ECP de-notified Aleem Khan, Nazir Chohan, Ameen Zulqarnain and Malik Asad Khokhar for violating the party policy under Article 63.

The weaknesses of party were also acknowledged by Mian Mehmood ur Rasheed. Talking to media at party’s Jail Road office, he said that there were a few mistakes on our part during the march. “We should have left from Lahore in a rally or caravan as it was necessary to boost the morale of workers,” he said. Rasheed, who has also served as leader of the opposition from 2013 to 2018, was detained by the police a day before the march, under 16MPO.

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