ISLAMABAD: A large number of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders and workers gathered at Aabpara Chowk to protest against the privatisation of PIA on Saturday afternoon. However, they had to disperse soon after a group of traders confronted them with chants of slogans demanding payment of dues for tents and chairs taken on rent by the party during its sit-in in the capital in 2014.
The PTI workers dispersed within half an hour but the traders continued chanting slogans against non-payment of their bills and seeking ‘Insaf’ (justice) from Imran Khan.
The PTI had announced to hold the protest at 3pm. A large number of workers initially gathered in front of the PTI office at Embassy R oad and at around 3:40pm started moving to Aabpara. But the traders, who were holding placards and banners, had reached the spot before the arrival of the PTI workers.
Traders chant slogans against PTI for not clearing their bills for tents, chairs etc., used during 2014 sit-in
Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmed, who runs United Tent Service in Aabpara market, told Dawn that he provided chairs, carpets, tents and other items for the sit-in in August 2014 which continued till December 16.
“PTI workers Waqar Abbasi, Amir Mughal and Shoaib Siddiqui remained in touch with me and promised that party general secretary Jahangir Khan Tareen would pay the bill. However, out of the total Rs9 million bill, the PTI paid only Rs4.4 million and Rs4.6 million are still unpaid.”
He said for the last over one year, he had been meeting office-bearers of the party for the recovery of the bill. “As Imran Khan believes in sit-ins, I and my workers have been holding a sit-in in front of his residence in Banigala for 62 days.”
He said four to six people remained in the sit-in round the clock and on many occasions they stopped the vehicle of Imran Khan but every time he promised to look into the matter.
Mr Chaudhry said a number of items provided for the sit-in got broken during the shelling on the participants of the sit-in. Some of the goods were stolen and others were shifted to the central secretariat of the PTI and never returned, he claimed.
However, an office-bearer of the PTI on the condition of anonymity said the traders were blackmailing the party.
“We have paid almost Rs5 million, which was more than even the worth of the goods provided for the sit-in. But the traders are still demanding the rent. We have negotiated with them many times and reached the conclusion that their demand is unjustified,” he said.
“The PTI believes in justice but it also takes a stance against blackmailing. So we are clear that we will not pay them a single rupee,” he said.
Addressing the protesters, PTI central leader Saifullah Niazi said PIA should not be privatised, adding the PTI would stand by the workers of the national flag carrier.
“Unfortunately, the rulers have become used to killing citizens. They killed people in Model Town Lahore and in Islamabad during the sit-in in August 2014,” he said.
In the Rawalpindi city, the PTI workers and supporters brought out a rally from Saddar to Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club near Liaquat Bagh. More than 100 vehicles and over 60 motorcycles participated in the rally.
The protesters were carrying placards inscribed with anti-government slogans and chanting slogans in favour of the PIA employees.
Speaking on the occasion, local PTI leader Zahid Kazmi, who led the rally, said the PML-N government was wasting taxpayers’ money on orange train and metro bus projects instead of improving national organisations such as PIA and Pakistan Railways. He alleged that the ruling party leaders were minting money through commissions by launching such mega projects.
He said poor workmanship on the metro bus route in Rawalpindi and Islamabad was exposed within six months and the commissioner Rawalpindi and Hanif Abbasi had to ask the contractors to improve the quality of work at different sites.
“The PML-N leaders did not pass the benefit of reduction in the petroleum prices at the international market to the citizens. The government is getting fuel at lower prices and providing it to the people at double and triple prices just to make money instead of imposing taxes on industrialists and businessmen.”
He said the PTI would not allow the government to sell the PIA to any international firm as most of the firms were working in collaboration with the Sharif brothers and their business partners.
However, the protest rally exposed the inner politics of the PTI in the city as the party’s local members of the Punjab Assembly did not attend it.
“MPA Rashid Hafeez and I were asked to join the protest in Islamabad so we had gone there,” MPA Arif Abbasi told Dawn.
He said the members made it sure that all the party workers attended the protest in the garrison city. He said the party’s show in both the cities was impressive.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2016