A tactical U-Turn: Imran Khan’s long march ends in a draw

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Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the ruling government a deadline of six days to dissolve the assemblies and announce elections, threatening to bring back the entire country to the capital.

The ultimatum was given by Imran Khan after he led a massive long march from Peshawar to the capital Islamabad with hundreds of thousands of his supporters on Wednesday. However, Khan’s anti-government march, in which, he claimed to bring with him at least 2 million people, who would stage a sit-in in the capital Islamabad until the ruling government does not announce a date for early elections, was unable to create that public strength and momentum as government’s steps to stop the masses through blockades and massive deployments of security forces with a free hand to use all means necessary from reaching or joining Imran Khan’s long march, confronted the protesters and dealt with them with iron hands.

Wednesday became one of Pakistan’s and in particular Islamabad’s worst as violent clashes seemed to erupt from all major cities of Pakistan with PTI protesters and security forces saw open use of force, baton charge, tear gas, turning the capital Islamabad, economic hub Karachi and Punjab provincial capital Lahore into a war zone and a battlefield.

While this chaotic situation continued, Imran Khan, along with his supporters and party members marched from Peshawar towards Islamabad, removing all hurdles and calling on people to join in for what he called March for true freedom (Haqeeqi Azadi ki March) against what he termed as Imported Government.

But Khan’s rally that took at least 15 hours to cover a distance of 2 hours, was unable to gather more public strength. While the crowd was huge, it was certainly not even close to 2 million people.

On the other hand, backdoor contacts remained active in view of the deteriorating situation in the country to engage both parties in negotiations and bring both to a mutual ground of understanding and de-escalate the situation that seemed to be moving towards a disastrous scenario.

As per sources, PTI leadership flew to Islamabad mid day of Wednesday to have back door meetings with the government representatives and the establishment to work out an exit strategy and carry forward its narrative.

The source confirmed that it was because of this backdoor deal that court’s route was used to direct government to release all arrested PTI workers and remove all blockades from the route of the long march. This was also followed by an internal understanding that Imran Khan would be allowed to come to Islamabad, but will not stage a sit-in in the capital.

As per sources, it has also been decided that both parties will make a negotiating team and sit together to decide on a date for early elections.

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