Imran Khan’s decision to call off a planned protest in Pakistan’s capital after the Supreme Court said it would probe the Panama Papers leaks has evoked mixed reactions from the opposition leader’s supporters.
The move also led to ridicule by rival political parties, with some accusing Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of striking a deal with the ruling PML-N.
In an unkind remark, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker Saeed Ghani said “another Niazi (Imran Khan) has surrendered in November” - a reference to the surrender of Pakistani forces led by Lt Gen AAK Niazi in the 1971 war with India - and former interior minister Rehman Malik said he had already predicted such a deal between the two parties.
The media reported that soon after Khan’s decision, PTI leaders returned home to avoid questions from workers and supporters about the planned lockdown that morphed into a “thanksgiving” event, or ‘Youm-e-Tashakkur’.
Some PTI workers said Khan’s decision to call off the protest had come after it became apparent that the turnout for the event would be low.
One party worker told a TV news channel that the PTI failed to mobilise supporters and only 1,500 people arrived at Khan’s home in Banigala despite the call from the party’s chairman. “That is why he took a U-turn following the Supreme Court announcement,” the worker alleged.
“The party chief had no choice but to announce the dharna had been postponed, to save face and welcome the Supreme Court,” said the worker.
The PTI had demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation but suddenly agreed on providing terms of reference for a commission to be set up by the Supreme Court to probe revelations in the Panama Papers leaks that the premier’s children owned offshore assets. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz dubbed it a “hasty retreat”.