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January 17, 2018

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Preparations completed for today’s protest in Lahore

LAHORE: As the joint opposition finalised the arrangements for a rally to mark the start of an anti-government protest, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday refused to issue a stay on the gathering.

However, the LHC issued notices to the federal and Punjab governments, IGP and Lahore DC on a petition, challenging the PAT’s protest rally along with other political parties today (Wednesday) on The Mall Road.

A full bench, led by Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, issued the order on a petition moved by Naeem Mir, a local trader. Justice Shahid Jamil Khan and Justice Shahid Karim Khan were the other members of the bench.

The bench ordered the respondents to ensure their presence in the court by 9am on Wednesday (today). PAT, PTI and PPP are all set to stage a protest at the Faisal Chowk in front of the Punjab Assembly.

Earlier, a full bench headed by Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan refused to hear the case, but later Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah formed the full bench. A single bench comprising Justice Shahid Karim on Monday had rejected the plea filed by a lawyer, seeking directions to the PAT and other political parties to restrain them from staging a protest on The Mall Road. However, the judge had suggested the chief justice to form a larger bench on the matter due to its legal significance.

Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt, the counsel of the petitioner, argued that the planned protest on The Mall was an open violation of law and tantamount to destroying businesses besides other challenges for citizens.

The counsel argued that the protest was unconstitutional as all the opposition parties had come out against an elected government. He said the protests caused loss of millions of rupees.

Advocate AK Dogar had adopted the similar contention during Monday’s hearing. Both the petitioners asked the court to order the government authorities to stop the protest. The court adjourned the hearing for Wednesday (today).

Meanwhile, PAT head Dr Tahirul Qadri said his party's 'grand protest' would start at noon on Wednesday (today). The protest, to be held at The Mall Road and attended by major opposition parties, seeks the resignations of the ruling party, including the Punjab chief minister and law minister, over the 2014 Model Town incident.

Addressing the media, Qadri said the protest would be divided into two sessions, adding, “We are not asking for resignations… they will have to give their resignations.” According to Qadri, there would be only one stage from where all leaders would address the participants.

Qadri claimed that they could not even think of violating the Constitution as their movement was for restoration of democracy. Also on Tuesday, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference that the party chairman, Imran Khan, would not share the stage with Asif Ali Zardari.

He said joining the PAT protest along with PPP should not be considered an electoral alliance, as there were political and ideological differences between the PTI and the PPP. On the other hand, the Punjab government on Tuesday decided to call in three companies of Pakistan Rangers ahead of the opposition’s rally over the Model Town incident outside the Punjab Assembly on The Mall Road. Sources say at least three companies of Rangers would secure sensitive installations, including the provincial assembly and the Governor’s House, both situated on The Mall Road.

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