The opposition alliance that came together to protest the Orange Line Metro Train two weeks ago will march from the Provincial Assembly chambers to the chief minister’s secretariat on Wednesday.
The Rs165 billion project has been mired in controversy since January. Opposition parties have demanded a debate about it in the Punjab Assembly.
The alliance of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid has said it will launch a campaign against the “undemocratic attitude” of the government if it failed to take all stakeholders on board.
The alliance has demanded that the government review the Orange Line metro train project addressing concerns of all stakeholders. On Tuesday, a protest demonstration in this regard was held on The Mall. Hundreds of political workers participated in the demonstration.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed said the pressing issue of privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had diverted the attention of the alliance last week.
He said that the alliance would stage a protest march on Wednesday during a session of the Punjab Assembly.
“The government has started addressing grievances over compensation due to the mounting public pressure. This pressure must be sustained because the issue has not been resolved,” he said.
“The issue goes beyond inadequate compensation. It is also about protection of heritage sites which should be debated on parliamentary forums,” he said.
“The alliance is also protesting the diversion of funds to this project. The money could have been invested in the Saaf Pani project and acquisition of lands for graveyards.”
Political parties in the alliance are in contact with their leaders over the issue, he said. Following their meeting at the JI office, the alliance had announced that central leaders of all parties would lead the protest demonstrations in the final phase of the campaign. Rasheed said requests in this regard for meetings with Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto and Sirajul Haq were being made.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Zaeem Qadri said that the government was willing to address all concerns regarding the project.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Qadri said the government had accepted the opposition’s demand of holding a debate on the issue in the Punjab Assembly.
“This project is going to provide affordable transport services. It is a welfare project and we standby it,” he said.
He said the protests against it had apparently been called for political point scoring. “These will not deter the government,” he said.
Rasheed has asked the assembly secretary to schedule a debate on the project this week.
The assembly session on Monday (today) will debate on agriculture and the issues faced by sugarcane farmers.
Earlier, the law minister had claimed that despite the government’s invitation to hold a debate on the Orange Line metro train project, the opposition had backed out.
Rasheed said the opposition was willing to participate in the debate, added that an in-camera session should include briefings by experts over various aspects of the project.
“This debate should not be one-sided. It’s not about the government or the opposition. It is about the people and this city.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2016.