At 3 pm Friday, the air – hot and humid – chairs were being placed for a press briefing at Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence.
For political activities, Khan has dedicated an annexe in his large Mediterranean styled-villa, which sprawls over a ridge overlooking Islamabad.
The press briefing was planned in the lawn adjacent to the annexe. Two pedestal fans whirred loudly to lessen the intensity of the taxing weather.
Soon, PTI leaders started reaching the venue.
First one to reach there was Shireen Mazari, who went straight to inspect a room, where Khan had to be interviewed by a local TV channel.
Mazari was running on her toes, checking the minute details, and passing on directions. ‘Remove this chair from here and place it there,’ she directed the staff, pointing her fingers, while standing in veranda, next to the lawn.
As Mazari was busy in arrangements, everyone and everything appeared halted for a moment.
Imran appeared in the walkway.
Taking long steps, staring up in the air, Imran Khan walked into the veranda. He had a brief glance at those present, then hugged Mazari and went into the room where he was to be interviewed.
Khan seemed exhausted. His reddish, wrinkled face turned into a large grimace when some local print reporters pestered him for brief individual interviews.
His black Shalwar Qameez suit was all wet with sweat and despite attempts to look calm, he appeared stressed and fatigued when he unwillingly talked to some reporters after they refused to give up.
After the brief camera session, taking the characteristic long steps, Khan went back into his residential quarters.
Entry to his residential quarters is restricted, only some selective foreign media journalists, top party officials or personal guests are allowed to visit his home.
Imran Khan has promised that Aug.14 would usher Pakistan to a new beginning after he amasses one million protesters in the capital.
What really transpires on Aug. 14 is anybody’s guess.
“We have a very clear idea of what we are doing,” Saif Ullah Khan Niazi, one of the key confidantes of Imran, said.
“We don’t worry about any negative impact of Azadi march on the party as we don’t have stakes but we are worried about the country,” Niazi said.
Has waiting for the next election term already exasperated Imran Khan. Is Aug. 14 an attempt at a power grab?
“No, no, not at all,” Niazi replied. “We are not power hungry. We have been asking for recounting since the day one but the government never took our demand seriously.”
Niazi is the chief organiser of Azadi March and also seems overworked. He is among founding members of the party and won Imran’s trust during a nationwide tour to strengthen the party at the gross roots level.
Javed Hashmi was next to reach the venue, dragging his feet slowly with the help of a Bahawalpur-based political leader Farooq Azam. Javed Hashmi reached for the sofas placed in the veranda, amid receiving greetings from party members and media.
According to PTI sources, Hashmi was against the long march. He has been reportedly advising the party to avoid any step that would deteriorate law and order of the country. But Hashmi refused to comment and said internal party discussions cannot be made public.
Soon, the venue was filled with cameras and PTI workers, who were trying to stand behind the leadership so that they could also appear on the TV screens. Imran Khan once again emerged from inside the residential area.
Imran, during the press briefing, warned Nawaz Sharif not to thwart the upcoming protest by using any ham handed tactic.
Unfazed by the possibility of inviting a military intervention, Khan placed the responsibility on Nawaz Sharif if his supporters and police end up in bloody clashes.
Imran Khan’s decision of ‘Azadi March’ has been termed as politically unwise, untimely and egoistic by some of the opponents but senior party leaders claim they have considered all pros and cons.
“I heard the idea of Azadi march first time from Imran Khan himself,” said Asad Umar, the lawmaker from Islamabad and former corporate executive.
“The matter was then discussed in the core committee meeting and yes, there was a divided opinion, some were in favour and some were against,” Umar said.
“It all started in a May 11 meeting when it was decided that a movement would be launched and if nothing happens, there would be ultimately a long march,” Asad Umar said.
“During the meeting, Jahangir Tareen asked me, Asad, are you with the decision? I said, yes, I’m with the movement.”
“The philosophy behind the decision was a feeling that we did not achieve for what our party was formed,” Asad said.
“We had a rally in Faisalabad where we gave time to the government to open four constituencies but our demands were ignored. In the next Bahawalpur rally, we finally announced the march but the government still took us lightly,” he said.
“It was not at all a decision of personal ego, or for power. Yes, there was a feeling that the government was ignoring us but it was all political and nothing personal,” Asad said.
Asad categorically rules out any intervention from army and says there has been no indication that army would intervene if law and order situation worsens when PTI will try to reach the red zone of the capital.
Imran Khan and his aides seem increasingly bitter and frustrated with the government, and with the political system.
The recent anger and frustration of Khan can be understood through the statements of Saifullah Niazi.
“We had been working hard since the party came into being, but even after having a government in one of the provinces, the change is still missing,” Niazi said. “This is the frustration, youth is pressurising us and asking where is the change?”
Imran Khan is obsessed with the idea of change despite all the obstacles and hindrances in his pursuit of the grand ambition.
And, he will not give up, his aides and confidantes say.
Riaz Khan, who is Imran Khan’s personal driver, shared a snippet that delves into Imran’s state of mind.
“Some years back, while driving somewhere, I noticed Imran Khan’s jacket was torn from the shoulder,” Riaz said. “I pointed it out.”
Imran Khan frowned and snapped back.
“You have your eyes on my jacket,” Imran said. “My eyes are on the county’s future, ten years ahead.”