ISLAMABAD: Close to one billion rupees would be spent only on transporting participants of the long march led by chief of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) and Minhajul Quran International (MQI), Dr Tahirul Qadri to Islamabad from across Pakistan by over 40,000 buses, special trains and other modes of conveyance.
“Our activists, workers and sympathizers have so far hired 35,000 buses and wagons only in Punjab to carry participants to Parliament D-Chowk Islamabad, but the number of these vehicles will finally go up to 40,000 as the show draws near,” MQI media representative Qazi Mehmoodul Islam told The News when contacted in Lahore. To a question, he said that in his view every hired vehicle will charge around Rs20,000 but the amount would vary depending on the type of the transport engaged.
If Rs20,000 charged by every vehicle is multiplied by the total 40,000 buses, the financial implication comes to Rs800 million, which undoubtedly makes a whopping amount. If an average of fifty persons gets on every bus, they will come to two millions. Dr Qadri has announced to bring four millions to the federal capital for his grand sit-in.
Mehmoodul Islam said that special railways trains have been booked by the participants in Karachi and Hyderabad to reach Rawalpindi.
He said that in addition to the vehicles hired in Punjab, thousands of buses and wagons have also been engaged by the prospective participants from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Mehmoodul Islam said the MQI or PAT is not footing the bill of the transport but their workers and activists are bearing the cost from their own pockets. “There is no need for us to provide funds for this purpose.” To another question, he said the organizers have not planned to establish makeshift toilets around the venue for the participants of the long march.
“There are dozens of plazas in the commercial hub of Blue Area, which will provide this facility. All of their occupants will readily cooperate,” he hoped.
Mehmoodul Islam said those taking part in the march have arranged food, blankets, quilts and warm clothes that they will use during their stay at the venue of the protest, which, he said, will continue till the acceptance of their demands about the caretaker government and electoral reforms.
He said the MQI and PAT are well aware of the cold weather in Islamabad and that is why they have advised the participants to take care of it to avoid diseases. “On our own, we have made no such arrangements because there has been no demand from our workers.”
Mehmoodul Islam said that all the people who showed up at the December 23 public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore of Dr Qadri will be present in the January 14 long march.
He said there was no dearth of finances because people have sold everything including motorcycles, television sets, computers, jewelry, household articles etc., to mobilize funds for the long march.
Mehmoodul Islam said that as per the schedule, Dr Qadri would start his long march from his Model Town residence on Monday morning in the company of some 300,000 people. The crowd would swell when the procession would travel on the Grand Trunk Road, he hoped.
Altaf Hussain whose MQM is the only supporter of the protest has appealed to the people and philanthropists to donate clothes to protect the participants of the long march.
With Dr Qadri hell-bent upon his planned march, the Islamabad administration is busy over the past two days to block the D-Chowk with huge containers that it has seized from private truckers. Their owners are wailing and protesting that they have not been paid even a single penny. In addition, their business has been ruined.
Officials say that the administration has decided not to allow the participants of the long march to reach the D-Chowk. At the same time area influential people, sympathetic to the Punjab government are persuading the transporters to refuse giving their vehicles on rent to the organizers of the protest. So far, there is no solid coordination between the federal and Punjab governments but the measures being taken by both are aimed at frustrating the long march.
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