LAHORE – An alliance of opposition parties under Dr Tahirul Qadri-led Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) is staging an anti-government protest today (Wednesday) on Lahore’s Mall Road, demanding justice for the victims of the Model Town incident.
‘Sharifs behind Model Town killings’
Addressing the rally, PTI Chairman Imran Khan pledged that he would continue to challenge the ruling Sharif family despite many challenges.
Khan said that he would consult his party regarding dissolution of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
He told a large audience in the heart of Punjab, that “we only hear of 14 people who were killed in Model Town, but there were many more who were left crippled for the rest of their lives.”
Further hitting at the ruling PML-N over police brutality, the PTI chief said that the force in Khyber Pakhtunkhw were de-politicised after the 2013 general elections. “We empowered Nasir Durrani and passed Police Act,” he said, adding that police officers cannot be transferred by politicians.
“The crime rate has dramatically dropped in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Police don’t trust the Punjab police.”
Khan said that he was sure that Model Town incident was ordered by the Sharifs.
The Sharifs brothers are yet to answer who was behind the Model Town killings, he said, adding that all police officers would have been in jail if they had resorted to shooting all by themselves.
“It was not the murder of workers of PAT. It was the murder of Pakistanis.”
Thanking the leadership of PAT, PPP and other parties, Imran said that he would share more ideas with Dr Tahir ul Qadri about the future protests. “We should not step back at any cost.”
“I fully agree with Sheikh Rashid on dissolution of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.”
“I damn the Parliament which allows a convicted man to head a political party. On the other hand, the Punjab parliament has adopted a resolution against the Supreme Court. The fools in Punjab don’t know anything about separation of power.”
Want an end of the ‘sultanate of Sharifs’
Addressing the allied opposition rally, the PAT chief said no steps would be taken against Pakistan’s constitution and democracy, and that they only want an end of the “sultanate of Sharifs.”
Qadri thanked leaders and workers from all political parties for attending the show of strength in Lahore, and to get justice for the victims of 2014 Model Town incident.
“Entire political leadership is here to honour humanity, to empower the weak, to give voice to the voiceless,” the PAT chief said. “We have gathered here to save the country from Sheikh Mujeeb of a new era,” he said while hitting at ousted PM Nawaz Sharif who likened himself with the Bangladesh founder.
He lamented that the rights of the people were being usurped and the national treasury plundered in the country.
Qadri maintained that they do not want to sabotage peace in the country. “We only want put an end to your cruelty. If we had to take the law into our own hands, then we would not have tolerated tragedies.”
‘Threat from Jati Umra’
Before him, former president and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardai addressed the rally and said that Nawaz Sharif compares himself to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. “He (Nawaz) is comparing himself to the man responsible for the division of Pakistan.”
“Our country faces threat from Jati Umra,” he added.
The PAT chief had announced to take to the streets following the report of Model Town incident prepared by Justice Baqar Najafi was made public by the Punjab government on Lahore High Court (LHC) orders.
The tragedy happened in 2014 when around 14 people were killed and over 100 injured during police firing outside the secretariat of PAT in Model Town.
Following the incident, the PAT is demanding resignations of Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s resignation for their alleged complicity in the incident.
Opposition parties, including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttihada Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and others have announced their support for the PAT’s movement.
A big stage was prepared outside the Punjab Assembly.
Schedule of Rally
Earlier in the day, Qadri said the protest would comprise two sessions, adding that, “we are not asking for resignations…they will have to give their resignations”.
Today, Qadri will unveil future course of action regarding taking up the issue and bringing it to a logical end.
It is expected that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari will address the rally during the first session around at 2 pm, while PTI chief Imran Khan will address the second session of the protest around at 6 pm.
Citing security reasons, the city administration on Tuesday said that PAT-led multi-party protest rally, on Mall Road in Lahore, could not be allowed.
“It is to reiterate that in the wake of threat alerts to the public gathering/ public places and threats to District Lahore and security concerns shared by agencies, the said protest, is not recommended to be held in the open place,” a letter sent by Lahore’s deputy commissioner in response to a request for holding the rally in wake of Model Town killings incident.
The deputy commissioner in letter further said that Lahore High Court (LHC) has also imposed a ban on staging rallies and protest on Mall road under section 144 Cr.P.C.
Today, a three-member bench of the LHC will also hear a case filed by the Lahore traders to bar Tahirul Qadri from holding the rally on the busy road of Lahore.
Educational Institutions Closed
As the PAT geared up to take to Mall Road and re-launch an agitation campaign against the PML-N government, the Punjab education ministry kept schools and colleges in the area shut for at least the next two days.
“The government will decide when to reopen educational institutions depending on what the situation is,” said Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashood.
The private school association has also agreed to keep all schools shut in the area as well.
Citizens experienced a heavy traffic jam as all major roads connecting to the Mall road have been closed by taking the security measures.
Traffic police have given a diversion plan to the people, while public will get updates regarding the situation on roads through Rasta App and FM Radio.