• PDM public meeting to be held at all cost: Gilani
• Firdous says Buzdar govt showing patience
• Ex-PM’s son held amid crackdown on opposition workers
MULTAN: Enthusiastic workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Saturday stormed into the Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh Stadium in order to set the stage and make other arrangements for the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) show after removing the barriers placed around the venue by the police.
As activists of other PDM parties, mainly Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl), also followed them, the law enforcement agencies that confiscated the crane used by charged political workers to remove the containers avoided putting strong resistance against the crowd.
The Multan meeting scheduled for November 30, which coincides with the PPP founding day anniversary, is the fifth PDM show and is expected to be addressed by Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari as well.
While the city police chief in a letter to the deputy commissioner asked for requesting the relevant quarters to suspend mobile phone services on Monday, scores of people belonging to the opposition were booked by Lodhran police for violating Punjab Infectious Diseases (Prevention and Control) Ordinance 2020.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari stated that there were reports that the government wanted to launch a crackdown on his party workers in Multan. “If my workers are harmed, the protest will be held at each and every corner of the country. The government should act wisely and even not think about launching a crackdown. Use of force against PPP workers in Multan by the government will aggravate the situation further,” he warned.
Reacting to the takeover of the stadium by the opposition workers, Special Assistant to Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan tweeted: “The Buzdar government is showing patience, but the PDM wants to exploit the situation. Action will definitely be taken against those elements who tried to take law into their hands. In wake of corona (situation), the PDM cannot be allowed to worsen the situation,” she added.
Ex-PM’s movement restricted
Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani warned the government against the crackdown saying that a leaderless crowd could prove more dangerous. “Containers have also been placed outside my residence to restrict my movement.
“They could restrict my movement but how could they stop the masses. The leaderless crowd could prove more dangerous for the government,” he said, adding that people could not be deprived of their fundamental rights by stopping them from holding peaceful protest when there were court rulings in this regard.
He quoted a minister as saying that a tragedy could take place at the public gathering. “The government should tell what it has done in this regard so far. Did the minister brief the cabinet or inform the agencies in this regard. Instead of ensuring security, the government focus is on arrests,” he regretted.
Mr Gilani said no contact had been made with him by (law enforcement) agencies in connection with the preparation of the PDM event. “The public gathering will be held at the announced venue at any cost. Besides the former prime ministers, the daughters of two former prime ministers will also address the gathering. Maryam Nawaz and Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari are coming to attend and address the gathering,” he said.
He said the popularity of any party in power could easily be assessed seeing how much it implemented its manifesto. “Our struggle is not against any institute or person, rather our struggle is for the rights of the people,” said the former premier.
Meanwhile, the police on a complaint of Lodhran Health Chief Executive Officer Dr Sajjad Akhtar Chaudhry registered cases against 15 identified persons, including former minister Abdul Rehman Kanju, and 120 unidentified persons for holding a workers convention in violation of the Punjab Infectious Diseases (Prevention and Control) Ordinance 2020.
Earlier, PPP workers in shape of a rally led by Ali Haider Gilani and Ali Musa Gilani, both sons of the former premier, reached Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh. They also had a crane to remove the containers from roads leading to the PDM show venue. While the police deployed there sprang into action and confiscated the crane, some workers in groups reached other gates of the stadium and found their way as some containers had been displaced. They broke open the locks of the gates without any resistance and entered the stadium while shouting slogans.
Soon afterwards, PDM workers entered the stadium in trucks carrying sand and material for the stage. They spread sand on patches of the stadium where the ground was wet, while other workers started arrangements to set the stage.
Ali Musa Gilani said: “It [entering the stadium] was our ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’ plan. We are here now and will remain here till November 30. All the workers have been asked to reach the venue and stay here till their leadership is here.”
Later, JUI-F leaders Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidery and Maulana Attaur Rehman met former premier Gilani at his residence and announced that they would spend the night with PDM workers at the stadium.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020