On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar urged the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to postpone its Lahore jalsa on 13 December in the light of warnings of terror attacks and the condition of coronavirus and called on the opposition to address issues through dialogue.
The Punjab chief minister, speaking to the media in Lahore, urged the opposition coalition to discuss their problems through consultation and not through “compromising or playing with people’s lives”
In Lahore, Buzdar said the new coronavirus situation was very severe and the rate of positivity was more than 46 percent. “It is not appropriate to play with the people’s lives like this and permission [for the rally] will not be given”
Addressing the criticism, he said demonstrations and meetings are not organised anywhere in the world.
“Why are you doing them, are they happening anywhere else that you can justify yourself? What is the need for this, is there some kind of emergency?”
He claimed that in keeping with the legislation and its rules, the government would deal with the PDM.
Meanwhile in view of the instructions provided by the National Command and Control Centre, Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja said that the PDM was not authorised to hold a public meeting.
Action against those who took the law into their own hands will be taken. In view of corona and safety issues, the PDM should stop meeting, he added.
‘Govt has decided to expose the opposition’
Special Assistant to the Chief Information Minister, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, addressing a press conference later in the day, said that opposition party workers had broken into the ground at Minar-i-Pakistan and began making preparations for tomorrow’s rally even though they were refused permission by the provincial government.
The government has announced we’re going to reveal them. I invite the media [that on every street in Lahore, you will not see a single bottle. No route to deter [the opposition] from conducting a rally would be closed.
She maintained that as long as they abide by the rules, the government would encourage party members. “Under the Punjab Infectious Diseases Act, any kind of assembly has been prohibited.”
She added that in the light of rising Covid-19 incidents, the provincial government was responsible for upholding the recent directions passed by the court and issued by the National Command and Control Centre on public gatherings.
Awan said that CCTV cameras would track the route from Jati Umra, as well as all entry and exit points in the area. This cameras will record your acts in black. Anyone who puts the law into their own hands will be punished accordingly.
Terror threat issued
The National Anti Terrorism Authority also warned about a potential terrorist attack in Lahore on 13 December.
On December 9, two separate notifications released said the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) could threaten the Lahore rally of the PDM.
TTP terrorists are allegedly coordinating on December 13 to carry out a terrorist attack. While specifics are not available on the location of the terrorist activity and possible targets, the date seems to be important as Minar-i-Pakistan is scheduled to host a major public rally.
One of the notices reads, “After the failure of their first plan in Peshawar, these terrorists are planning to shit their operatives […] and logistics towards another place (most likely Lahore) for carrying out a large-scale terrorist activity against an unspecified target,”
A meeting of HIA officials across the western border took place on 9 December and “decided to upsurge terrorist activities in Pakistan” according to the second notification issued.
HIA may target PDM gatherings/rallies, particularly the one scheduled for December 13 in Lahore, as per available details. In addition, it may also carry out assassinations of senior PDM-related political figures, it said.
In order to foil any future attempts, all alerts called for increased security precautions and increased caution.
Bilawal rules out dialogue with govt
The day before, PPP President Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ruled out dialogue with the government, adding that after the Lahore rally, the PDM would join the “second phase” of its anti-government movement.
The time has long gone by for negotiation [with the government]. When they speak of peace, he said, they do so out of fear.
They’re cowards who won’t be able to meet crowds. They would collect intelligence reports on the number of citizens who are planning to march to Islamabad, he added.
He said the “first phase” of the anti-government campaign of the 11-party opposition coalition was successful, adding that the PDM would go on with the “second phase” after December 13.