RAWALPINDI: Local PML-N leaders and a small number of party workers were present outside Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) on Wednesday, where Maryam Nawaz appeared before the joint investigation team (JIT) looking into the Panama Papers case.
Party leaders such as Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Ali Khan, former MNA and Punjab Sports Committee Chairman Mohammad Hanif Abbasi, MNA Malik Abrar Ahmed, Rawalpindi Mayor Sardar Nasim Ahmed, Malik Shakil Awan, Haji Pervaiz, Raja Hanif and Chaudhry Sarfraz Afzal were present outside the academy, but observers noticed that the number of supporters was not as high as leaders had claimed.
They said the PML-N’s city chapter had failed to pull in crowd expected by the party leadership, which directed local leaders to give Ms Sharif, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, a warm welcome at the academy so people could see how popular she is.
Local PML-N leaders, party workers lead rallies to express support for Sharif family ahead of her appearance before JIT
The party chapter held rallies from various parts of the city to the FJA to welcome Ms Sharif. PML-N workers gathered on Murree Road Shamsabad and were then led to Islamabad by Mayor Naseem, Malik Shakil Awan and Hanif Abbasi, while workers led by Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Ali Khan travelled from Chaklala Scheme III.
PML-N leaders and supporters travelled by car, on motorcycles and minibuses and vans, waving party flags and portraits of the prime minister, while chanting slogans supporting the prime minister, Ms Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
A senior party leader told Dawn the party asked local workers to bring the maximum number of trained workers and to raise slogans supporting Ms Sharif and avoid bringing enthusiastic workers.
He said MPs were asked to bring 200 workers each from their constituencies, and all women workers were asked to gather at the FJA.
However, he said, local leaders from Gujar Khan, Taxila, Murree and other tehsils did not bring more than 40 workers and 10 cars in their rallies.
The police had made tight security arrangements for the occasion. PML-N supporters confronted the police on 9th Avenue, but no untoward incident occurred. Before heading towards the FJA, the leaders addressed their workers.
They said the prime minister and his relatives were innocent and had nothing to do with the Panama Papers leaks, and the JIT had so far failed to collect any evidence against Mr Sharif or any of his relatives.
Party leaders said the party was being politically victimised for taking bold steps to develop the country and bring change in the lives of the poor. They said the party leadership was united under the leadership of the prime minister and would render any kind of sacrifice for their leaders in a time of need.
Meanwhile, commuters faced a traffic jam on Murree Road due to the PML-N’s rallies. Traffic wardens could be seen trying to facilitate citizens and easing the flow of traffic, following instructions from Chief Traffic Officer Yusaf Ali Shahid.
When contacted, Mr Awan said the party had not asked local leaders to bring people, but workers and supporters came to express solidarity with Mr Sharif and Ms Sharif.
He said local leaders went to Islamabad to control workers and supporters because the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf would take advantage and may have created disturbance.
We went to control the workers and avoid any untoward situation,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2017