LONDON/RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on Sunday said that if his supporters are harmed upon his arrival in Pakistan, then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be held responsible and the party would hold protests outside the Prime Minister house in Islamabad.
Addressing the media from the passenger seat of an SUV outside Heathrow airport in London, where a large number of PAT supporters including women had gathered to bid farewell to their party chief, Dr Qadri claimed that PAT workers and activist were being arrested and tortured.
Criticising the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) government, he said, "I have even witnessed the Bhutto era but have never seen such oppression by a government."
"People carrying loudspeakers were arrested, Is this what you call politics and democracy? Take me instead of my workers," he added.
He instructed his party workers to remain calm and not to cause any damage to government properties in case he was killed.
He also reiterated his support to the Pakistan Army while expressing solidarity and cooperation with armed forces.
Dr Qadri is departing London to arrive in Pakistan via Dubai. Around five hundred Qadri supporters, from Canada and England, are joining him on his arrival to Pakistan.
Two flights have have departed for Pakistan whereas the PAT chief is on board the third flight, an Emirate aircraft, which would land in Dubai late on Sunday from where Dr Qadri would leave for Pakistan after an overnight stay.
PAT workers detained, Section 144 imposed in Rawalpindi
Authorities imposed Section 144 in Rawalpindi on Sunday prohibiting the gathering of more than four persons, whereas several leaders and workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were detained by authorities under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance.
District Coordination Officer (DCO) Rawalpindi Sajid Zafar Dal imposed Section 144 in the city, despite PAT workers' earlier threat to stage a sit-in outside the airport and in Islamabad if the government did not allow them to hold public meeting and carry out a rally from the garrison city to Lahore.
Section 144 will remain effective in the city from 12 noon Sunday (today) till 12 noon on Tuesday.
Dr Tahirul Qadri is expected to arrive at the Benazir Bhutto Airport on Monday morning at 7am, with some PAT leaders saying he may arrive on a 2am flight.
Moreover containers were set up at all entry and exit points of the city where vehicles were being checked by security forces and people suspected of being rally participant were being stopped from moving ahead.
Also all routes leading towards the airport were sealed and no one was allowed to approach the area whereas authorities were providing shuttle services to passengers holding confirmed tickets.
The City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) said that the steps were being taken not to stop the arrival of PAT chief Dr Tahurul Qadri but to protect Dr Qadri and his activists due to the threats received of an imminent terror attack in the city.
Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel, police elite force and Rangers personnel were deployed at Islamabad airport whereas no camp was allowed to be set up near the airport and its surroundings.
Upon his arrival early on Monday, Dr Qadri is scheduled to hold talks with the media at the airport’s Rawal lounge from where he will head outside to address PAT workers.
Qadri and his workers had then planned to embark on GT road making stops at Gujar Khan, Gujranwala and Gujrat to reach Lahore’s Data Darbar on Tuesday.
Supporters decry Section 144
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) General Secretary Khurram Nawaz on Sunday hit out at the government for imposing Section 144 in Rawalpindi.
"If [government] had to enforce any security measure then why wasn't it applied immediately after the Karachi attack?" Nawaz said in a press conference, adding that the party has reasons to believe that the measures carried out by the government were targeting Qadri.
"The government has sealed our offices. The media should independently verify this information," Nawaz said.
The PAT office bearer blamed the Sharif administration for trying hard to provoke Qadri's supporters so that they go out on streets and confront security forces.
Nawaz said Qadri had issued a fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombings, terming them unlawful. "Qadri was the first one to do that and his life is in danger since then".
Nawaz said that the PAT was the first party to support the armed forces and the operation Zarb-i-Azb and that the Sharif administration was using the operation as a tool.
The Qadri enigma