On November 3, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) worker was killed while seven others, including former prime minister Imran Khan, were injured in an armed attack during the party’s long march in Wazirabad.
PTI chairman was leading the long march on Islamabad to demand early elections in the country since the ouster of his government in April.
The PTI started the march from Lahore on Friday and Khan and other leaders continued to demand, in addition to early elections, the removal of the current government which they claim was formed at America’s behest. Khan and his followers continued to put pressure on the establishment by repeatedly accusing it of bringing Shehbaz Sharif to power by using its influence to dislodge the PTI government through a no-confidence vote.
Khan was building pressure on the establishment and current government vigorously and saying that if the government would not announce early elections, there would be bloodshed on the streets and no one would be able to stop it.
The PTI chief warned the establishment to realise the pulse of the masses and remarked that “no establishment can stand against its people since their unity alone can guarantee a country’s stability and sovereignty.”
Reportedly, Khan and his party leaders were also simultaneously holding negotiations with the establishment as they were seeking a face-saving exit to end the long march, but it did not bear any fruit. Khan had earlier announced to reach Islamabad on Nov 4 but changed his plan and announced that the long march could last for 10 months instead of simply culminating upon reaching Islamabad.
However, the London-based PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on Monday instructed his younger brother, PM Shehbaz Sharif, against accepting the demands of the PTI Chairman. “Don’t listen to any demand of this fitna (rabble-rouser) and don’t give him any chance of face-saving,” he tweeted.
After the armed attack on PTI long march, the PTI chairman suspended the march and announced that he would hold protests in Islamabad after recovering from the injury and directed his party to conduct protests in every city of the country on daily basis to demand resignation of the PM Shehbaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and Maj Gen Faisal Naseer , who he alleged hatched the plot to kill him at the rally.
The tension between the PTI and the establishment started going further south when Khan named the serving army officer as a plotter behind the assassination bid on his life.
Earlier, the PTI chief also accused the establishment of killing the senior investigative journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar held a joint press conference to speak about journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing and former premier Imran Khan’s confrontational narrative against the military, as well as a host of other related topics. This was for the first time in Pakistan’s history that the head of the country’s spy agency directly addressed the media.
PTI leaders and workers continue to hold protests in all the cities of the country against the attempt on the life of the party chairman. The leaders and workers are criticising the role of the establishment and PDM leaders for imposing “unannounced martial law in the country and silencing the voices of dissent.”
The worker and leaders are criticising the role of the establishment for sideling the PTI and favouring the “elite” who are facing corruption charges.
The PTI workers attacked the Governor House in Punjab and gathered outside the Corps Commander’s house in Peshawar. The workers hurled threats of dire consequences at the PDM leaders.
On Saturday, PM Shehbaz Sharif announced to form a commission to investigate the attack on Khan which was welcomed by the PTI chief in his press conference on Sunday.
Khan said that his Punjab government was even unable to register an attempt to murder case against a serving army officer and pointed out that the application of a former prime minister (Imran Khan) wasn’t entertained and it showed that some people were above the law in the country.
Political analyst Mubbashir Zaidi is of the view that due to current chaotic situation in the country, Khan is gaining widespread popularity.
He said the current attack on PTI long march also resulted in making Khan more popular among masses.
“There are two factors because of which Khan is gaining popularity, firstly, due to poor performance of the Shehbaz Sharif-led government as the price hike and mismanagement is negatively affecting the masses while on the other side, Khan is gaining sympathy among the masses because of the attempt on his life at the long march,” he said.
He said the attack also had made government and establishment vulnerable and they were also panicking after the incident and seemed clueless to deal with the situation. Zaidi said the establishment was equally in a spot of bother and the attack on the PTI Chairman has forced them further on the back foot.
Imran Gabol is a Lahore-based journalist working for the daily Dawn.