- Ruling party decides to counter PAT-led protest drive through its own public gatherings
- Opp adamant to hold rally at Mall Road as PPP Co-chairman Zardari arrives in Lahore
- PTI leader says Imran Khan won’t share container with Asif Zardari
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has decided not to use force against the anti-government power show announced by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in collaboration with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People’s Party, PML-Quaid (PML-Q) and several other smaller parties, at Lahore’s Faisal Chowk on Wednesday, as opposition workers have started arriving in the city to participate in the demonstration.
The decision was reached in a meeting held at Jati Umra—the residence of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif—on Monday in which Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif briefed Nawaz on the political situation and discussed with him strategies to deal with the PAT-led protest.
In the two-hour-long meeting, various issues came under discussion, especially the protest movement over the Model Town killings, and the upcoming general elections.
Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, former finance minister Shaukat Tareen and some other top leaders of the PML-N were also there.
Disclosing the details of the meeting, a senior PML-N leader told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity, that the government will not use force to disrupt the protest demonstration of the opposition to avoid the Model Town and Kasur episodes, where the officials of the Punjab Police resorted to firing at the protesters.
“Besides the PAT protests, multiple issues, including the recent developments in the Balochistan Assembly and the election campaign of the PML-N for the upcoming general elections, came under discussion,” the PML-N leader said.
PML-N TO HOLD COUNTER RALLIES:
Taking a cue from the past, the PML-N has, this time around, decided to counter the opposition’s protests by holding rallies of its own to pave the way for the ruling party to enter the election arena with a large public mandate.
In this regard, the PML-N is completely focusing on its next public meeting scheduled in Gujranwala and doing its best to make the gathering there successful, the PML-N leader said.
It may be mentioned here that the PML-N holds all the seats of the National and Punjab assemblies from Gujranwala.
KHAN WON’T SHARE STAGE WITH ZARDARI:
As the government braces to counter the demonstration, the PTI and PPP have remained adamant to support the cause of Dr Qadri.
Once an ally, now a rival of Nawaz, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Lahore on Monday to participate in the PAT rally.
On his arrival, Zardari held a consultative meeting at Bilawal House, where PPP Central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira gave a briefing regarding the arrangements for the protest.
Talking to Pakistan Today, PPP Central Punjab General Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor said that their workers from across Punjab will participate in the rally.
“The number of our workers from Lahore will be more, as compared to workers coming from other districts of Punjab,” he said, adding that Zardari will also share the stage with Dr Qadri.
It is interesting to note here that as the PPP claimed that Zardari will be sharing the stage with the PAT chief, the PTI spokesperson quipped that PTI chief Imran Khan won’t be joining Zardari atop the same container.
“Imran will not share the container with Zardari; however, the two will address their supporters separately,” he said.
A PTI MPA also denied any positive developments between the PPP and PTI, saying: “We are not standing with the PPP as we are only supporting the Model Town victims.”
PTI BRINGS ITS OWN CONTAINER:
The PTI chief is bringing his Rs 15 million-worth container to the rally which has been equipped with all state-of-the-art facilities. The container reportedly prepared under the supervision of former governor Chaudhry Sarwar and PTI Publicity Wing Secretary General Wasim Chaudhry has a special room for Imran Khan and has the capacity to accommodate several party leaders for a meeting.
In addition to the construction of the container, the PTI leadership on Monday gave final shape to its strategy, ordering all election hopefuls for national and provincial seats to bring a maximum number of people to the demonstration venue.
During a PTI district-level meeting, PTI Central Punjab President Abdul Aleem Khan vowed to make the January 17 demonstration successful.
He said that “the big evil (Nawaz Sharif) has gone and now our slogan would be “go-Shehbaz-go” and sooner this target would also be achieved.”
LAHORE ADMIN RELUCTANT TO ALLOW PROTEST:
Even though the PAT-led rally’s preparations are in full swing, the Lahore administration still has to give the PAT a go-ahead for the rally. Till the time of the filing of this report, the administration had not given permission for the rally.
Earlier, a joint committee of anti-government parties let by Dr Tahirul Qadri’s PAT had formally sought the Punjab government’s permission for carrying out a protest on Jan 17 at Mall Road.
According to reports, a joint request to hold a protest against the 2014 Model Town incident was submitted on Saturday by representatives of the political parties to Lahore Commissioner Abdullah Khan Sumbal and Lahore District Commissioner Sumair Ahmad Syed.
However, the PAT leadership is hopeful that they will be allowed to hold a demo at the city’s main artery.
“I am quite hopeful that we’ll get the permission to hold the protest rally at Mall Road as negotiations with the district administration are underway,” PAT General Secretary Khurram Nawaz Gandapur told Pakistan Today.
In case the district government refuses, the PAT will discuss further measures in its Tuesday meeting of the steering committee.
Meanwhile, MPA Shoaib Siddiqui of the PTI, who moved an application to the district administration seeking permission for the rally, met the officials of the administration, but the negotiations remained unsuccessful till the filing of this report.
LHC REJECTS PLEA AGAINST RALLY:
However, in what seems to be good news for the protesting parties, a bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected a petition to restrain the PAT-led political alliance from launching their protest drive from January 17.
–With additional reporting from Ihsan Qadir