Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday announced he is suspending the party’s ongoing ‘Jail Bharo’ movement in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on elections being conducted in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days of their assemblies’ dissolution.
In a spilt ruling, the apex court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to consult with President Arif Alvi to announce a date for elections in Punjab, and with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali to fix a date for polls for its assembly. However, while maintaining that polls must take place within 90 days of the dissolution of the two assemblies, the court granted a “barest minimum” deviation from the schedule in light of the delay in announcing a date for polls.
“We welcome the SC judgement,” wrote the PTI chief in a posting on Twitter. “It was responsibility of SC to uphold Constitution and they have valiantly done that through their judgement today. It is an assertion of Rule of Law in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the party was now suspending its ongoing Jail Bharo movement to proceed forward with election campaigns in KP and Punjab.
Launched on Feb. 22, the PTI had claimed its Jail Bharo movement would see 200 party leaders and workers courting arrest daily across Pakistan in a bid to pressure the government into announcing a date for polls in Punjab and KP. However, the protest has proven fairly disappointing, with total arrests in the past week yet to even achieve 500 nationwide, compared to the 2,000 it should have achieved according to the PTI’s claims. A key reason for the low turnout for the protest has been cited as Khan refusing to lead it, securing bail in several cases, even as he exhorts PTI workers, leaders, and the general public to court arrest “for the sake of the nation.”
At the same time, very few PTI leaders have offered themselves up for arrest, denting the PTI’s efforts to build public support for the movement. Clips of the party leadership taking photos outside police vans before departing protest sites has triggered ridicule on social media, while calls for relief to the people who have been arrested have been met with derision by courts, with a Lahore High Court judge noting that they had voluntarily sought arrest and had no reason to complain when the government fulfilled their desires.