Opp parties all set to begin ‘grand’ protest movement against Punjab govt over Model Town killings
Qadri and Zardari say won’t rest till their parties oust PML-N govt
Qadri says protest to be divided into two sessions after PTI refuses to share stage with PPP’s Zardari
LHC forms full bench to hear petitions against PAT-led protest demonstration
LAHORE: The country’s major opposition parties are all geared up to launch their ‘grand protest’ against the Punjab government from Lahore’s Mall Road today (Wednesday), as the protest leaders expressed their resolve not to rest till the ouster of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government headed by Shehbaz Sharif.
On January 8, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri had announced to launch a protest movement against the Punjab government for failing to bring the culprits of the Model Town killings to book. Mainstream opposition parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have announced their support for the movement for justice to the victims of the Model Town incident.
The rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ameen in Kasur at the hands of a suspected serial killer and the Punjab Police’s failure in arresting the murderer has also become a rallying cry for the opposition parties.
Addressing a joint press conference at Bilawal House on Tuesday night where the PAT chief was invited for dinner, Qadri and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari said that the protest movement aims at getting rid of the incumbent government.
They said that PML-N leaders are interested in ruling the country and do not care for Pakistan.
“The government is attempting to save their rule but the leaders would have to resign after pressure increases,” Zardari said, adding that there would be no ‘RO election’ this year.
The former president said that the PPP and PTI were getting closer to each other due to their ‘common agenda’.
Zardari asked Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to resign and present themselves for accountability.
“We are making it clear on the ruling elite that we cannot wait more on Model Town incident. It is the last chance for Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah to tender resignations from their posts and present themselves for accountability,” Zardari said.
“Those involved in Model Town mayhem will not be spared and will be in a court of law. The sole purpose of political alliance in PAT-led protest is to get justice for Model Town victims,” he said.
‘TWO SESSION PROTEST’:
Talking to reporters, Qadri said that the ‘grand protest’ will start at noon and will be divided into two sessions.
“We are not asking for resignations…they will have to give their resignations,” he said, adding that they cannot even think of violating the constitution as their movement is for the restoration of democracy.
Interestingly, all the political forces will share one container during the protest, Qadri revealed. He added that both PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari will address the crowd from one stage.
Earlier in the day, Qadri had said that the decision was reached with a consensus of all the political parties supporting PAT’s instance on the Model Town incident.
“Our original plan for Wednesday is a one-day protest. However, this may convert into a sit-in,” he said.
“All these measures are taken with a complete consensus of all the parties and there is no disagreement on any point at any level,” he said, adding that their last steering committee meeting constituted an action committee.
Earlier, PTI clarified that the party chairman Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari will not share the same container during the PAT-led protest on January 17.
‘NO ALLIANCE WITH PPP’:
Addressing a press conference at the party’s chairman secretariat, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that Imran Khan and Zardari will address separate sessions. He also ruled out the possibility of a political alliance with the PPP.
“We cannot sit with Asif Ali Zardari and PPP on the same container. We have requested PAT to hold two different sessions of the protest.” He added, “The protest is not part of any political agenda and its only purpose is to get justice for the victims of Model Town tragedy.”
Apart from the PAT chief, PPP chief Zardari, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, leaders of the PML-Q, Pak Sarzameen Party, Sunni Ittehad Council, Wahdatul Muslimeen and other parties are also expected to address Wednesday’s gathering.
Though the ruling PML-N has decided not to use force against the anti-government protest, the Punjab government has refused to provide security to the protesters, saying the responsibility for any untoward incident will be on the protest organisers.
Terming the protest as “tantamount to contempt of court”, since LHC has banned gatherings on Mall Road, the Punjab government has issued a Code of Conduct which states: “there should not be exhilaration/hooting in front of the offices of political/religious parties. Also, no speeches will be allowed against the constitutional offices/armed forces/judiciary.” It adds that “no one shall be forced to close their business”.
“Organisers shall be responsible for any damage to the public property. The participants of the rally shall not be urged/provoked to break the cordon or security barrier,” it further states.
LHC FORMS FULL BENCH:
On the other hand, Punjab Education and Private School Association have decided to keep all schools and colleges around the Mall Road, closed for the next two days, due to the protest.
Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashood has said that the government will reopen the schools only after gauging the situation.
Meanwhile, Lahore High Court (LHC) formed a full bench to hear the petition against the protests, after the recusal of Justice Irfan from the former bench.
The previous three-member bench was headed by Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan and comprised Justices Shahid Karim and Aminuddin Khan. Justice Irfan, however, recused himself from the case due to some personal reasons.
The new bench has been formed after a bench of Lahore High Court rejected a petition to restrain the PAT-led political alliance from launching their protest, and referred the case to LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah to constitute a larger bench to hear the case.
A petition against these protests was filed by AK Dogar, stating that the political parties should not take part in the ‘grand protest’ as it is against the state.
Owing to the abruption that will be caused due to the protest, traders of the area, in a separate petition, have requested the court to transfer the venue of the protest to Nasir Bagh.
“We do not want to deprive the protesters of their democratic right, however, if the protest is moved to Nasir Bagh, our daily lives will not be disrupted,” the petition said.
The hearing of the case has been adjourned till Wednesday morning.