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Protests reinvigorate PTI`s political significance

By Intikhab Amir 2013-12-02
PESHAWAR, Dec 1: Pakistan Tehreeki-Insaf`s campaign against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation`s supplies may not have impressed Washington to stop drone attacks in Pakistan, but the Imran Khan-led party has moved forward its political agenda through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa protests.

According to political observers, PTI has killed two birds with one stone as its Nato supply disruption camps have enforced its bargaining position against the federal government and, on the other, it has also proven itself to be an effective political force in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

`Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf`s attention is, by and large, focused on Punjab`s politics and it has (by sits-in in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) criticised the federal government to increase pressure on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz,` said Aimal Khattak, a political observer based in Islamabad.

Dr AZ Hilali, chairman of the politicalscience department at University of Peshawar, said PTI`s decision to confront the federal government over an issue of global significance had helped it win recognition as a major political player on the national political scene, bringing it out of dormancy after it took rein of power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

`PTI`s stand on a foreign policy issue has helped it serve its multidimensional objectives on a broader political scale: it has gone on one-to-one negotiation position with the federal government, won recognition from national institutions and got its political weightage enhanced,` he said.

PTI`s Nato supply disruption camps, which continue to stay put in four districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have brought the supplies to a halt via the province. However, the PTI provincial leaders have no idea about where they would end up from here as for the continuation of the protest camps.

`We can sustain these camps for a long time by virtue of our worker strength,but it does not mean that we would continue the sit-in for years,` said Dr Nadeem, the vice president of PTI, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He, however, said the decision to wind up or continue with protest camps would be taken by the party`s central leadership.

`As of today, these camps are for an indefinite period, but we know we will have to take other political parties on board since it is an issue of national sovereignty,` he said.

Dr Hilali said PTI would sooner than later be ending protest camps.

Aimal Khan felt that the camp winding up decision would come for different reasons.

`First of all, such protest camps become difficult to sustain for a longer period of time and it is also evident from the number of people participating in these camps on a daily basis,` said Mr Aimal.

`Similarly, Nato supplies have not come to a complete halt as they are goingon from the Quetta route.

Dr Hilali said PTI would call off protest because it had already gained a lot and further continuation would hurt its popularity. The party, he added, was cognisant of its campaign`s economic implications for national economy as International Monetary Fund might jump in if suspension of Nato supplies via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continued for a longer period.

According to him, Pakistan is receiving considerable assistance from European Union due to its agreement with Nato.

Similarly, he said, the campaign had also affected the economic interest of 36,000 to 40,000 workers/traders/businessmen directly and indirectly associated with the Nato supply business from Karachi to Torkham.

The public resentment factor has already become a reality hard for PTI`s leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to escape.

On Saturday, a delegation of truckers from Peshawar, affected by the Nato sup-ply blockade, called on Fazl Elahi, PTI`s member of the provincial assembly from PK-6, Peshawar, apprising him of their misery.

`After listening to their grievances, I told them since the Almighty Allah is their Provider, then they should not look towards the US,` said Mr Elahi.

`The Almighty Allah has given us a true leader (Imran Khan), so now, they should trust him.` The delegation left after having green tea with Mr Fazl Elahi.

The PTI MPA said the US would stop drone strikes under pressure from PTI`s protest camps. `Their (Nato) troops are running short of food supplies. They will have to listen to us,` he said.

The sustainability of protest camps has already started straining PTI. The part has changed its tactics to maintain a respectable presence of its workers at camps in the four Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, including Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat and Charsadda.

According to a PTI MPA, during the early days of the establishment of theNato supplies disruption camps, workers were arranged on the constituency basis in Peshawar. Now, the strategy has been changed.

`Workers are arranged from five union councils on a daily basis for the camp at Peshawar`s Hayatabad toll plaza,` said Mr Elahi, when asked about the strategy.

He said PTI had chapters at the union council level.

Apart from the union council-based chapters` presidents and their general secretaries, two to five workers, said the MPA, were also arranged by the grassroots organisations on their turn.

Dr Hilali believed that the PTI workers by showing emotional power for their leader (Imran Khan) had introduced the party at international level.

`Today, their protests and suspension of Nato supplies are being covered by the world media,` he said.

Dr Hilali said the party had made the federal government to come to terms with it in exchange for assurances that PTI would not resort to destruction.