By Sardar Khan Niazi
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan who served as prime minister for over three-and-a-half years has taken to public rallies to get people’s support. He has continuously held rallies in different cities.
The former Prime Minister is demonstrating his continued popularity with rallies across Pakistan that have drawn huge crowds and signaled to his political rivals that he is still a political force.
These demonstrations have only grown larger and more energetic in recent days. Imran Khan enjoys backing from a strong support base that would not sit quietly. Khan has over 17 million followers on Twitter, which is higher than the ratings of many top news shows in Pakistan.
Imran Khan said he would soon organize a mass march to the capital, as a culmination of his campaign to force the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to hold elections, which some analysts say Khan might win due to his growing attraction.
He told the cheering crowd that he would soon give them a call for a march on Islamabad. When Imran Khan asked them whether they are ready for it, they answered in the affirmative. PTI has all the right to counter its political rivals.
Just to stop a long march to create hurdles is not a democratic way. The PDM government should show courtesy if they are confident in front of the public, which they are not. What many dismiss as sour grapes may actually mark the beginning of something new: the creation of a popular democratic movement in the country.
In a series of barnstorming speeches across the country, Imran Khan called for new elections. These speeches clearly worried those in power. The government rejected the demand for early elections.
During many rallies, TV stations did not show Imran Khan’s speeches live on instructions from the media regulatory agency. The regulators banned broadcasting his live speeches, purportedly because of his critical remarks about the government. Viewers also had difficulty accessing the speech even via YouTube and other social media.
Analysts say that even in the opposition, Khan remains a political force. Imran Khan will win elections whenever the voting takes place; predict many newspaper columnists and former senior politicians.
In a by-election in Punjab’s provincial assembly in July, the PTI won power in the region in a result that surprised all commentators, as it implied that Imran Khan could survive as an electoral figure without being in office. Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous province. Khan’s party now controls the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan regions.
The PTI also won a landslide victory in NA-245, a seat in Karachi, a stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement: two major allied political parties. Political analysts say this shows the PTI is the only party that is competitive in all provinces.
In his speeches, Khan calls for unfettered democracy. He suggests that a country that torments his political staff cannot be a democracy and demands new, free elections without vote rigging.
The means by which Imran Khan is delivering his message is posing a challenge to the PDM ruling parties. Making heavy use of social media and live streaming, Khan is intent on getting his message out, even if not receiving coverage from mainstream broadcasters and the print media.
Pakistan is a young country, with more than sixty-four percent of its population under thirty years of age. Imran Khan appeals to them through the media of this generation. His appeal to female voters and the young is a political novelty and an asset.
The PDM government consists of parties of all stripes. If Imran Khan is capable of outclassing them, he certainly will win the upcoming elections.