Battle of nerves looms over PDM power show

Published January 19, 2021
ISLAMABAD: PDM leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mian Iftikhar and others addressing a press conference after a meeting on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: PDM leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mian Iftikhar and others addressing a press conference after a meeting on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

• PML-N, JUI-F, PPP to lead rallies • No plan to stage a sit-in • Over 7,000 security personnel to secure Red Zone • Minister says failure is fate of opposition alliance

ISLAMABAD: With the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) all geared up to stage a power show outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building on Tuesday (today), a slight mishandling on the part of the opposition or government might lead to political chaos.

The Red Zone, which houses important buildings like the Parliament House, Presidency, PM House and Supreme Court, has already been secured before workers of the 10-party opposition alliance arrive.

According to the PDM leadership, the opposition parties will stage a rally outside the ECP building to press the commission to resume and decide the foreign funding case against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). They have no plans to stage a sit-in outside the commission’s headquarters and the rally will disperse after two to three hours.

The ECP is expected to hear the funding case against the ruling party on Wednesday.

Some small rallies from Rawalpindi and Islamabad will reach Serena Hotel Chowk from where PDM leaders, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, will lead the main rally to the ECP headquarters.

After staging a demonstration, the PDM leaders will address a joint press conference.

Inside sources told Dawn that Prime Minister Imran Khan had informed his spokespersons on Monday that “stern action” would be taken against protesters found violating the law.

The sources quoted the prime minister as saying: “The government will not block PDM’s rally, but will take action if the opposition disturbs peace of the federal capital.”

All main opposition parties are taking part in the rally with the PML-N expected to play a leading role. JUI-F’s Maulana Fazl will also lead from the front with his party taking out two separate rallies.

PPP is joining the PDM power show, but its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, will not be part of it. Instead, other party senior leaders will be seen in the rally.

On the other hand, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration has finalised a security plan to maintain law and order during the opposition’s protest. Over 7,000 security personnel, including Rangers and police, would be deployed on the occasion.

“On government’s directives, the administration will not block the rallies but will take strict action in case the protesters created any disturbance,” a senior official of the local administration said.

A number of meetings between the PDM leaders and officials of the local administration have taken place in which the opposition leaders have given out an assurance that the protest will be peaceful.

“But, we are quite worried that a slight disturbance in the rally from any side can lead to a disaster,” the official said.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said her party would stage six small rallies that would converge on Serena Chowk. One of rallies will start from Nawaz Sharif Park in Rawalpindi, which will be led by Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Other rallies will arrive from Murree, Gujar Khan and Jhelum. The rally that will start from Rawal Chowk will be led by Tariq Fazal Chaudhry. Anjum Aqeel will lead protesters from Aabpara.

It is feared that these rallies can bring the entire city to a standstill and they are being brought out at a time when many educational institutions have reopened.

Ms Aurangzeb said rallies would originate from various points in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and after passing through different roads, would gather at Serena Hotel Chowk from where the top PDM leadership would lead the protesters to the ECP.

“We have asked all our parliamentarians to gather outside the ECP office at 12 noon,” she added.

On the other hand, JUI-F spokesman Mufti Mohammad Ibrar said: “The party workers will come in two rallies - one from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi led by Dr Atiqur Rehman and the other from Aabpara headed by Maulana Ghafoor Haideri.”

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said: “The PPP will take out only one rally from Centaurus Mall which will then join the main gathering at Serena Chowk.”

Asked why Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was not attending the protest, he said: “Mr Bilawal was engaged with some other matters, but the PPP will be represented by senior leaders, including Raja Pervez Ashraf.”

Meanwhile, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz on Monday said opposition parties’ alliance was marred by disagreements.

In a tweet, he said failure, disgrace and defeat were the opposition alliance’s fate.

The minister said opposition parties’ protest outside the ECP was a crude attempt to mislead masses and intimidate the national institution.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2021

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