Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will address the nation on Tuesday – 48 hours before Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) shepherd their respective ‘Inqilab’ and ‘Azadi’ marches into the federal capital. The announcement came as the government’s chief spokesperson claimed that a former spymaster was behind Imran Khan’s million-man march scheduled for August 14.
The premier’s decision to address the nation was taken at a consultative session of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) at the Sharif family residence of Jati Umra in Lahore on Monday. Premier Nawaz, who is also the president of PML-N, presided over the meeting.
Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif confirmed in a tweet on the microblogging site Twitter that the prime minister will address the nation at 8pm on Tuesday (today). A spokesperson for the ruling party also confirmed the scheduled address.
According to sources, senior party cadres suggested the prime minister take the nation into confidence over the hidden objectives of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, PTI chairman Imran Khan, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Government officials believe that all these politicians were in league in their conspiracy to overthrow the PML-N government.
During the session, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan suggested the government restrict PAT’s ‘revolution march’ to Model Town, where thousands of Qadri’s supporters have been already encamped after the party’s ‘martyrs day’ on Sunday.
Attendees at the consultative session included Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid and senior officials of law enforcement agencies, including Inspector General of Police in Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera.
According to sources, the interior ministry said in a report that Punjab might face a blowback of the North Waziristan operation by the end of this month. Since the entire police force of the province was focused on tackling the protest rallies of PAT and PTI, terrorists fleeing North Waziristan might take advantage and sneak into Punjab and seek shelter in urban centres, says the report.
The report recommends the ruling party order the arrest of Qadri in order to free up the police so that they could secure the province against any terrorist threat. IGP Sukhera didn’t agree to a PML-N proposal that Qadri should be allowed to lead his revolution march, though not without restrictions. Sources said the prime minister approved restricting Qadri and his supporters to Model Town, saying the PAT chief would not be allowed to lead his revolution march on August 14.
The ruling party has agreed to allow Imran to lead his supporters towards Islamabad. Nonetheless, the PML-N hopes that Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Sirajul Haq, who is mediating between the government and Imran, would ensure the PTI sit-in in Islamabad doesn’t last long.
After the PML-N consultative session, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal briefed the media about the decisions taken at the meeting. They said the meeting was briefed by senior officials of the law enforcement agencies on the measures taken for August 14.
Rashid claimed that a former spymaster was behind Imran’s Azadi march. However, he predicted that the Azadi march results wouldn’t be different from PTI’s performance in the 2013 elections for which Imran was trained by the spymaster. Without naming him, Rashid said the ex-spymaster was a reliable teacher of Imran and he [Imran] listened to him attentively.
Rashid said Imran was claiming to bring one million people to the federal capital on August 14. Islamabad, which has a population of 1.5 million, will be too small to accommodate another one million protesters, he added. “Imran would go to his palace at Bani Gala or to Serena Hotel, leaving his supporters on the roads,” he said and advised the PTI chief to arrange food and water for his one million marchers in advance.
Asked about the possibility of the army’s intervention, the minister said Imran and Qadri gave a wrong impression that the army would support them in dislodging the government. “Imran and Qadri are actually trying to defame the army,” he added.
For his part, Ahsan Iqbal said Qadri has given his supporters a ‘licence to kill’. “Such an insane person has a single-point agenda: to spread anarchy in society,” he added.
Today Premier Nawaz Sharif gave the nation his vision for 2025 which is an economic agenda, while Qadri and Imran were following an agenda of damaging the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2014.