The twin cities’ administrations’ indecisiveness over granting Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) — an outfit banned by the US, UK, UN and EU — permission to hold a major rally on Friday could heighten the possibility of a clash.
“We are trying to comprehend the possible outcome of this rally and a final decision will be taken later, however, so far we have not granted any such permission,” said Rawalpindi commissioner.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Amir Ahmad Ali said the request letter submitted by JuD office bearers had been sent to the Interior Ministry for further action and that the Islamabad Capital Territory administration was awaiting a response.
Several camps have been set up by JuD along the twin cities’ major thoroughfares and residential areas in preparation of Difa-e-Pakistan Caravan.
Millions have been spent on the rally, evidenced by jingoistic anthems and the distribution of party flags among commuters.
On Thursday, JuD activists riding motorbikes and parading in cars carried out several small-scale rallies across the twin cities, inviting all to participate in the rally, which will be addressed by the party’s head, Hafiz Saeed.
In April 2012, the US announced a bounty of $10 million on Saeed over his alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In the recent past, India gave Saeed the ‘most wanted terrorist’ tag even while the JuD leader has denied any involvement in the attacks.
Saeed will be leading Friday prayers at Liaquat Bagh, from where the rally will commence. It will culminate at D-Chowk, Islamabad.
Huge amounts have been dished out to the owners of gigantic roadside billboards, particularly in Rawalpindi, to promote the event.
“The rally is an effort to revive the anti-India sentiment among people and to further polarise society,” said Ali Afzal, a social activist and a lawyer. Afzal added fundamental elements on the behest of the military establishment were attempting to air the neighbouring rivals’ differences against the backdrop of the recent skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC).
“One does not need to obtain permission to celebrate Defence Day and holding a peaceful gathering to mark it,” said JuD Spokesperson Yahya Mujahid while speaking to The Express Tribune. Mujahid said the rally would highlight the unprovoked aggression of the Indian Army along the LoC.
Among the features that characterised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) last tenure in the late 90s was the abundant presence of several religious extremist outfits openly preaching their ideologies.
The PML-N is once again at the centre and one can recall those days simply by roaming the streets of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed could not be contacted for comments despite several attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2013.