ISLAMABAD: The capital administration has granted permission to both the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to hold separate public gatherings in the city on different dates and at different venues.

According to officials of the administration, the PTI has been granted permission to hold its public meeting at Parade Ground at Shakarparian on March 27 whereas the opposition parties can arrange their gathering at a plot adjacent to the weekly bazaar near Peshawar Mor at H-9 the next day.

They said a no-objection certificate (NOC) had earlier been issued to the PDM for the public gathering on March 25. However, since the opposition changed the date, a fresh NOC would now be issued to it.

The application seeking permission for the opposition’s gathering had been submitted by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Senator Kamran Murtaza.

The PDM rally, which is also expected to be addressed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders, will be held at the same place where the JUI-F had staged a 14-day long march in October 2018.

Organisers warned against resorting to violence, clashes

After submission of the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan by the opposition on March 8, the PTI had announced that it would hold a public meeting at D-Chowk outside the Parliament House on the day of voting on the no-confidence resolution, threatening that dissident MNAs would have to pass through one million people while going to the Parliament House.

Also read: PM Imran calls on nation to participate in PTI's March 27 power show

In response, the opposition PDM had declared that it would also hold a rally at the same place and same time in order to provide protection to the members.

The announcements by the two sides had created a fear of direct confrontation and violence in the capital on the day of voting on the no-trust resolution, prompting the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to approach the apex court in order to prevent the possible clash.

The SC, after hearing the two sides, banned public meetings at D-Chowk and directed the administration not to allow the two sides to hold gatherings at the same venue.

Speaking at a news conference, leaders of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the JUI-F announced complete details and the route of the opposition rallies.

PML-N’s Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said the party‘s long march would start from Lahore on March 26 and it would be led by party’s vice president Maryam Nawaz and opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz.

He said before reaching Islamabad on March 28, the participants of the march would have overnight stays at Gujranwala and Sara-i-Alamgir.

The PML-N leaders would also hold a public rally at Jhelum on March 28 before entering the capital. He said the party workers and leaders from southern Punjab and other parts of the country would directly reach the public meeting venue.

JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah said a caravan had already left Karachi on Thursday for Islamabad whereas a rally comprising thousands of vehicles would leave Quetta on Friday (today). He said that the participants from Balochistan would reach Dera Ismail Khan via Zhob from where they would depart for Islamabad under the leadership of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Mr Hamdullah said all the JUI-F caravans from KP and Balochistan would gather at Hakla Interchange on the motorway before marching towards Peshawar Mor at Srinagar Highway.

Interestingly, the JUI-F leader announced that they would reach Islamabad on March 26 and would remain in the city till March 28. He said the rally would be addressed by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari besides other leaders of the PDM component parties, which also include Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party of Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Qaumi Watan Party of Aftab Sherpao.

He said the future plan of the opposition would be announced by their leadership during the public meeting on March 28.

Tariq Chaudhry claimed that it would be the biggest ever public gathering in the history of Islamabad. He hoped that the administration would not create any hurdles for them, adding Islamabad is our city and the safety of the city is our responsibility.

The organisers of the PTI and JUI-F rallies had been asked to submit an undertaking to abide by the terms and conditions of the NOC. In case the undertaking is not submitted, the issuance of the order and receipt of the same are deemed to have been read and acknowledged by the applicants

The NOC issued to JUI-F stated that the information collected through sources indicated that the participants of its public gathering were preparing themselves for clashes/violence with rival political parties or with general public.

The two NOCs further said the report recommended that the permission for holding a rally, for one day only, may only be granted at a designated place.

The NOC issued to JUI-F said it must be ensured that Srinagar Highway remains open for general public and in case of violence/clashes by participants, the criminal liability and responsibility shall remain with the organisers.

The NOC issued to the PTI said it must be ensured that Islamabad Highway/Expressway and Murree Road remain open for general public.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2022

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