As the two major opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), worked to bury the hatchet in order to achieve their common goal of ousting the government, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Monday that he would begin a nationwide mass-contact campaign in which he would hold public meetings.
The prime minister will visit Nushki in Balochistan on Tuesday, according to the federal minister for information, hence there will be no weekly federal cabinet meeting on that day.
Separately, the prime minister will hold public rallies in various parts of the country to mobilise workers and voters for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the upcoming local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [second phase] and Punjab, which are expected to take place in May, according to the information minister.
The PM’s public mobilisation effort comes at an important time, not only because of opposition parties’ planned protracted marches against inflation, but also because the ruling PTI suffered a loss in the first round of LG polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mr Khan is thought to have expected better results in Punjab in addition to avoiding a repeat of the ruling party’s performance in KP.
When asked if the Prime Minister’s appearance in LG election seats is a violation of the election code of conduct, federal Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry stated public meetings will be held before the LG election calendar was announced.
“There will be no breach in such situation,” he continued. He was adamant that the PTI’s mass contact campaign had nothing to do with the opposition’s anti-government protests, claiming that it was “solely being launched in connection with the approaching LG elections in KP [second phase] and Punjab.”
The PM’s decision is expected to aid the government in countering the unified opposition’s newfound enthusiasm, which has been missing since the PPP split from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in April 2021. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and other PDM member parties are expected to join the anti-PTI regime march in the federal capital, since the PPP recently declared it would conduct a long march against inflation on February 27 and the PDM had planned its long march against the government for March 23.
In a news conference on Monday, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib remarked, “Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has decided to launch mass-contact campaign to organise the party at grassroots level.” Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of the [PTI’s] Central Executive Committee when the decision to undertake a mass-contact drive was made, he claimed.
Mr Khan would personally lead the mass-contact drive, according to the information minister, in response to PTI lawmakers’ requests that he ‘directly engage the populace’ about the party’s massive plans and priorities. “According to the plan, Prime Minister Imran Khan will speak at massive public gatherings across the country,” he stated.
Mr. Habib explained that the provincial presidents had been instructed to organise party conventions because it was their obligation to rally the party at the grassroots. He noted, “It was only the PTI that had conducted the country’s largest public assemblies.”
While the PTI has not released a timetable for the PM’s public appearances, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry informed Dawn that the PM’s first public appearance would be in Mandi Bahauddin, followed by appearances in Vehari, Sukkur, and tribal regions of KP. The actual dates of the public meetings, he said, would be announced later.
Mr Habib had previously stated that the prime minister would be in Faisalabad on February 9 to announce the health card scheme, which would provide free medical treatment to the masses for up to one million rupees. In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Punjab, and Gilgit-Baltistan, he claimed, the scheme has already been introduced.
He claimed that by March 31, the whole population of Punjab would be covered under the main ‘health card’ scheme, for which the province government had set out Rs450 billion.
Other specifics of the PTI’s CEC meeting were revealed by the minister, who stated that all of the presidents of the party’s provincial units delivered their reports on the party’s reorganisation, as the premier had asked them to complete the process at the district level by February 15.
Mr Habib stated that the party had informed its Permanent Parliamentary Board about the approaching local government elections in several provinces.
The minister slammed the critics of the visit, saying that national objectives should take precedence over personal interests. Those who are campaigning against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should be aware that the megaproject is currently underway, he said. “You will soon witness how the benefits of CPEC will trickle down to the regular guy,” he said.
A trip to Russia is in the works
Prime Minister Khan had accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer and would pay a formal visit to Russia soon, according to the PTI’s CEC. It will be Pakistan’s first official visit to Russia in 23 years.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced in a statement on Sunday that the Prime Minister would visit Moscow this month at President Putin’s request. “Pakistan’s relations with Russia are on a healthy trajectory,” he was quoted as adding.
Mr Habib said the two major opposition parties have ‘combined’ once more to prevent the government from collecting the looted cash stored in foreign nations. “The existing accountability process will proceed unabated because the opposition cannot blackmail the administration,” he said.
The minister responded to a question by saying that the opposition’s plots and evil plans posed no threat to the government. He said, “We are not afraid of their resignations, no confidence motions, or protracted marches.” He also chastised PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif for using telegraphic transfers to launder money. He then chastised Asif Ali Zardari, the former president, for laundering money through phoney accounts.