LAHORE: The newly-formed opposition alliance in the Provincial Assembly decided on Thursday to launch a protest campaign against the government’s Rs165 billion Orange Line metro train project. A demonstration in this regard has been scheduled for Monday at GPO Chowk. The announcement comes four days into the formation of a four-party alliance consisting of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and the Jamaat-i-Islami.
The decision was made at meeting presided over by Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed.
Rasheed said the alliance welcomed all parties to join the campaign against the projects. “Groups which do not have elected representatives in the assembly too should join Monday’s protest,” he said. Rasheed said the alliance had four demands. “We want heritage sites to be preserved. The government should also change the route of the metro train to minimise damage to buildings in densely populated areas.”
He said those affected should be compensated at 25 per cent above the market price for their properties. He said all matters pertaining to the Orange Line project should be discussed in the Punjab Assembly. Rasheed said the government should also assure citizens that funds allocated for other departments were not being utilised for this project.
“We will not let the assembly session follow its agenda untill the chief minister assures the House that no additional funds are being surrendered to the project,” said Rasheed.
The opposition is expected to take up the issue during the 19th session of the Assembly which will start on Friday (today). As many as 13 ordinances are expected to be introduced in the House on Friday. The issue of salaries of lawmakers will also addressed during this session.
Chiding the government for failing to address stakeholder’s reservations, Rashid said, “The chief minister’s stubbornness will be his undoing. Elected dictators are far worse than military dictators,” he added.
Rasheed said billions of rupees from important public welfare projects had been diverted to the Orange Line metro train.
He was joined by PTI’s Muraad Raas and Shoiab Siddiqi, PML-Q’s Khadija Umar and PPP’s Khurram Jahangir Wattoo.
Khurram Jahangir Wattoo said, “The entire province is protesting this project but the rulers are oblivious to their concerns,” he said.
Wattoo said at least Rs10 million had been diverted from various TMAs for the project. Closure of schools in the Punjab was also criticised.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2016.