Sharifs for ‘avoiding’ face-off between PML-N, PTI tomorrow

Updated December 14, 2014

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — Reuters/File
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — Reuters/File

LAHORE: In an apparent bid to avoid repetition of a Faisalabad-like situation, the PML-N leadership has asked party MNAs, MPAs and officer-bearers from Lahore to stop its workers from coming out on roads on Monday, when the PTI will be holding its protest in the city.

“I don’t want repeat of Faisalabad incident. Make sure no party worker is on road to have a face-off with the PTI (activists) on Monday,” a senior PML-N leader quoted Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as having directed to the party lawmakers and office-bearers from Lahore here on Saturday.

The PML-N leader told Dawn that the party leadership was not happy the way the PTI protest was handled in Faisalabad.

“The PML-N workers in Faisalabad were charged up by their local leadership, especially Rana Sanaullah, two days prior to the PTI protest. No party leader in Lahore is supposed to do so,” he said.

A PTI activist was killed and a few others were injured when workers of PML-N allegedly opened fire on them in Faisalabad on Dec 8.

“Although the hawks in the PML-N like Pervaiz Rashid, Saad Rafique, Abid Sher Ali and Rana Sanaullah are against giving a freehand to the PTI to put up a successful show in Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif do not want any clash between the PML-N and PTI workers,” he said.

The PML-N leader further said the hawks had also suggested to the Sharif brothers that the Punjab government should use police to deal with the PTI protest as giving a freehand to Imran Khan would reflect government’s “weakness”.

“However, the chief minister, contrary to the suggestion, is pondering deployment of unarmed police to deal with the PTI protest,” he said.

Another PML-N insider said the chief minister had even warned the Lahore party chapter againt sending the party activists in the guise of traders to record their “protest” against the PTI on Monday.

“Learning a lesson from Model Town, Lahore and Faisalabad incidents the chief minister is very careful in handling the PTI’s Lahore protest,” he said.

Interestingly, Rana Sanaullah, acting as de facto Punjab law minister till Dec 8, is not even consulted by the chief minister with regard to the government’s strategy to deal with the protest. Mr Sanaullah was on the forefront to finalise plans to deal with the Nov 30 PTI rally in Islamabad.

While the police have been told to act if the PTI tries to forcibly shut down the markets, Imram Khan has already made it clear that his party’s protest would be peaceful like that of its Karachi show on Dec 12.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2014