LAHORE: The PML-N government announced on Sunday that it would give a ‘complete free hand and security’ to Imran Khan’s PTI during its Raiwind march on Sept 30, but will not allow ‘violence’ to eclipse the Kashmir issue.

Although there has been no change in the PTI’s Raiwind march despite the ongoing tension between Pakistan and India after the Uri incident, some in the party believe that the current scenario may cause problems in pulling the crowd.

“Whether there has been tension between Pakistan and India in the wake of the Uri attack or not the fate of Imran Khan’s Raiwind march will be similar to past PTI rallies, especially of Sept 3 in Lahore, as Imran Khan will fail to pull the crowd for the Raiwind march,” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Mr Rashid said the government had decided to give a ‘complete free hand to Imran Khan’ for the march and it would even facilitate him if he wished to extend his protest.

“But we will make sure that Mr Khan’s wish for violence is not fulfilled on Sept 30. We will not let anyone eclipse the Kahmir issue through violence here,” he said.

Mr Rashid further said that India desperately wanted to divert the world’s attention from the Kashmir issue as it would be keen to show pictures of police torture here to tell the world that this was not only happening in Kashmir but also in Lahore.

“But we will not provide this opportunity to anyone. The government may be criticised for giving a free hand to PTI for creating problems for people of Lahore, but for the cause of the country we will welcome it (criticism).”

The minister asked Mr Khan to think what message he was giving to the world (through the Raiwind march) at a time when the Kashmir issue was in the limelight and Pakistan was fighting the case of Kashmiris in the world.

“Imran Khan chose to hold Islamabad sit-in in 2014 when the Chinese President was due here and now the Kashmir issue is in the limelight and he is marching on Raiwind,” Mr Rashid said, adding that if Mr Khan was so keen on highlighting corruption he should better wait for another 14 or so months for the 2018 election and ask people to elect him (to fight corruption).

Mr Rashid also advised the PTI chief to stop taking advice from his political mentor, Sheikh Rashid.

“Today Mr Khan has politically been isolated and he only finds Mr Sheikh Rashid with him. Mr Khan is not like Mr Nawaz Sharif on whose one call people come to the roads. Mr Khan does not have public support and that is why he meets failure whenever he gives a call to the people to take to the streets,” Mr Rashid asserted.

The PML-N leader said that political parties had now become matured and today they were not willing to weaken the democratic system.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Oppo­sition in the Punjab Assembly Mahmoodur Rashid of the PTI dispelled the impression that there had been any dissenting voices in the party about the Raiwind march (in the wake of Indo-Pak tension).

“The leaders and workers are united and enthusiastic to take part in the Raiwind march. People from different parts of the country today left for Raiwind and on Sept 30 Lahore will witness a huge gathering eclipsing any past show,” he told Dawn.

Mr Mahmoodur Rashid said Mr Khan would announce the next round of protest on the Panama leaks in Raiwind on Sept 30.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2016



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