PDM leaders vow to hold Multan rally despite arrests, strict security arrangements

Published November 29, 2020
Punjab PML-N president Rana Sanaullah, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani address the media in Multan on Sunday. — DunyaNewsTV screengrab
Punjab PML-N president Rana Sanaullah, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani address the media in Multan on Sunday. — DunyaNewsTV screengrab
This combination photo shows containers placed around the venue for the PDM's rally in Multan tomorrow. — DawnNewsTV
This combination photo shows containers placed around the venue for the PDM's rally in Multan tomorrow. — DawnNewsTV

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that the opposition's rally in Multan will go ahead as planned on Monday (tomorrow) and condemned the government's move to arrest workers of PPP and other opposition parties.

Addressing the media alongside PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Sunday, Rehman said that the PDM had initially decided to organise a long march to Islamabad in Jan 2021. "However, it seems like the government wants us to march to Islamabad earlier [than scheduled] and tell them what they are worth," he said.

"The rally will be held at Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh [stadium] and all workers will be there," he stressed.

Responding to a question about PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz's attendance at tomorrow's rally, Sanaullah said that the PDM had not started the movement with the government's permission and Maryam did not join after government approval either.

"She will attend the rally tomorrow and will break all barriers. Imran Khan has been saying for three years that he won't spare anyone. Now we won't spare him," he said.

Yousaf said that Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of former president Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal's sister would address the rally as both leaders were unwell. "I am thankful to the government that they have ensured the rally's success before it even happened. [Prime Minister Imran] promised on the floor of the house that he will provide containers and food to the opposition if they want to hold rallies. Half that promise has been fulfilled, the containers have arrived."

He also condemned the arrest of PDM workers by police earlier in the day, saying that the alliance has mobilised the People's Lawyers Forum over the arrests.

Multan police arrested more than 20 workers of the PPP and other parties aligned with the PDM, including Ali Qasim Gilani, the son of ex-premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, after they attempted to remove containers and roadblocks in front of the stadium — the venue for the PDM's fifth power show.

A day earlier, enthusiastic workers of the PPP stormed into the stadium in order to set the stage and make arrangements for the opposition’s rally after removing the barriers placed around the venue by the police.

Later that night, police and district administration cleared the venue. However, PDM leaders tried to remove the containers and bring equipment for the rally again, after which police confiscated their crane and arrested Ali Qasim Gilani, former member of the provincial assembly (MPA) Javed Siddiqui, Syed Arif Shah Saad Kanju and 25 other party workers.

The administration also resealed the route to the stadium with containers whereas party workers left the venue due to the cold.

In the morning, police and district officials emptied the stadium of equipment for the rally and took control of the area. Security around the stadium was tightened and police contingents were deployed.

Meanwhile, leaders from PPP, PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) reached the city to decide on a final course of action for tomorrow's rally. A spokesperson for Ansarul Islam, the khaki-clad volunteer force of the JUI-F, said that 3,000 members would reach the city today for security arrangements.

Emergency plan prepared

A spokesperson for the district administration said that it has completed arrangements to deal with any emergency situation. "An emergency plan has been prepared on the instructions of the deputy commissioner," the spokesperson said.

"Officials from the district administration, police and various organisations have taken over their duties. Officers of all institutions have been instructed to remain at the district headquarters for the next 72 hours. Instructions have also been issued to set up three helipads in the area around the stadium while a bomb disposal squad has been readied.

"A control room has been set up at the District HQ," the spokesperson added.

Registration of FIR

Police have also registered a first information report (FIR) against 80 people, including all four sons of the former premier — Abdul Qadir Gilani, Ali Musa Gilani, MPA Ali Haider Gilani and Ali Qasim Gilani and local leaders of the PDM who participated in the previous day's rally to the stadium.

The FIR stated that participants of the rally damaged the stadium and broke down the obstacles placed by police.

Qasim Gilani and PPP leader Jawwad Gujjar, who was also arrested, were taken to Multan's Nishtar Hospital for a coronavirus test.

PM lashes out

Prime Minister Imran Khan, meanwhile, lashed out at political leaders whose "sole and desperate goal is to save their families' looted wealth and corruption" and once again declared that the government will not grant an NRO even if pressurised.

Without naming the PDM or any opposition politician, the premier in a series of tweets said that due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country, the government needs to impose smart lockdowns but the opposition "want(s) jalsas not caring for the lives and safety of people".

"In fact not only do these 'leaders' lack any empathy with the masses, their families looted national wealth to further impoverish our masses. These entitled 'leaders' living like royalty in their secluded mansions, have simply inherited their positions because of their families," the prime minister tweeted.

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