PAT and AML rallies making govt uneasy

Source: Published in Politics on Monday, June 16, 2014

RAWALPINDI: The local administration is keeping a close eye on the leaders and activists of two political parties that are set to hold separate rallies to Lahore against the PML-N government next week.

The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has started mobilising the citizens to welcome its chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri, who is scheduled to arrive at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport from Canada on June 23, and lead a rally to Lahore via the G.T. Road.

On the other hand, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Awami Muslim League (AML) is set to start its train march from the Rawalpindi railway station to Lahore on June 20.

This situation has forced the Punjab government to mobilise the local bureaucracy to get daily reports about the two rallies. It has asked the local administration to utilise its resources to convince the citizens against participating in the rallies.

Local administration will try to convince people not to take part in protests

District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajid Zafar Dall held a meeting with all the assistant commissioners of all the seven tehsils on Saturday to prepare a report for the provincial government on the development.

A senior official of the city district government Rawalpindi told Dawn that the local bureaucracy had prepared a contingency plan in case the provincial government decides to stop the rallies or if the participants of the rallies turn violent.

“The DCO asked the officials to collect data from every tehsil about the number of people planning to participate in these rallies. The main leaders of the two parties arranging the rallies will be contacted, indirectly, to convince them against participating in the rallies,” he added.

PAT Rawalpindi chapter spokesman Suhail Abbasi told Dawn that the local leaders of the party had contacted the DCO to formally inform him about the rally and the installation of a stage outside the Islamabad airport to receive Dr Qadri. But the DCO, he added, refused to receive the application.

“According to the DCO, the Punjab government is yet to take any decision on this matter. He will receive the application once he gets any direction from the government. The DCO asked our leaders to wait for two or three days,” Mr Abbasi said.

He added that Dr Qadri would arrive at the BBIA and would deliver a speech outside the airport. He will then start marching towards Lahore through the G.T. Road. “The march will end at Data Darbar, where he will address a public gathering again,” he said.

On the other hand, AML leader Sheikh Rashid Shafique, who is also the former nazim of Rawal Town, said his party workers would go to Lahore to protest against the government for not providing the citizens relief from electricity loadshedding, price hike and unemployment.

He said the party chief would start his journey from Rawalpindi to Lahore and then from Lahore to Karachi “to expose the present rulers’ inefficiency and false mandate.”

He said if the government tried to stop the train march, it would not fare well for the government itself.

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Written by Aamir Yasin

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