Sharif to steal thunder from Imran’s party

August 02, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

ISLAMABAD: On August 11, just days before Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party plans to hold a major anti-government rally in Islamabad, the Ministry of Planning and Development has provided Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government a perfect opportunity to bring the country’s political leadership together under one roof.

Sources said yesterday Sharif is expected to be the chief guest at the launch of ‘Vision 2025’, while leaders from all major political parties, including the PTI, will be invited to the launch of the programme, widely considered the brainchild of the head of the Planning Commission and Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

While observers feel that it is unlikely that Khan will attend - given that accepting the government’s invitation may undermine his agenda for the rally on Independence Day - many commentators praised the government, saying that if all major political parties do show up to the event, it will serve to isolate the PTI.

People from all walks of life, including politicians, military officers, bureaucrats, businessmen, teachers, writers, artists and journalists are expected to attend the launch of ‘Vision 2025’.

Sources say that ministry officials are giving final touches to plans for the event, which is significant given its timing.

The PTI has called for march on Islamabad on August 14 to register its protest against alleged widespread rigging in the 2013 general elections.

Over the past few days, senior PML-N leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, tried to reach out to Khan by offering him talks over his demands for electoral reform, but the PTI chief appears adamant on going ahead with the demonstration on the country’s 68th Independence Day.

The government, on the other hand, claims that the event has nothing to do with politics, as it had been planned long before Khan’s announcement.

“Yes, we are inviting leaders from all mainstream political parties, including Imran Khan, since this will be a national event,” said Asim Niazi, media coordinator for the ruling PML-N and a close associate of Iqbal, the main architect of the Vision 2025 programme.

“We consider Khan a prominent Pakistani and an important politician,” he said. Moreover, he said, Khan’s party was in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, therefore, his participation in the ceremony was very important.

Niazi said formal invitations would be sent in the next few days.