Activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N confronted each other here on Sunday as the textile city braced itself for a tense Monday declared by the former as the venue for launching its ‘Plan C’ protests against alleged vote fraud.
The PTI has announced its plan to paralyse the city and later expand its protests to Karachi and Lahore and eventually to the entire country. Activists of the two parties who had gathered at what is virtually the city centre, the Clock Tower intersection, shouted slogans and pelted each other with tomatoes and eggs. Club-wielding workers of both parties, led by their local leaders, were also there to support their sides. At one point when PML-N supporters started pushing and shoving their rivals, the PTI activists left the scene only to return after about half an hour. The PTI squad surrounded the intersection and some of them tore down PML-N banners put up on the fence around the Clock Tower.
A heavy police contingent was deployed in the area and District Coordination Officer Noorul Ameen Mengal and city police chief Sohail Tajik urged workers of both the parties to remain calm. Police also held a flag march on various roads. Meanwhile, owners of public transport vehicles announced that they would ply their buses on Monday, ignoring the PTI’s protest call. At a press conference, their representatives Israr Ahmed, Mohammad Aslam and Mian Shahbaz said they would ensure protection of passengers. They praised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for building the motorway, Indus Highway and Coastal Highway and doubling the capacity of the GT Road and launching the Green Taxi, self-employment and Metro Bus schemes.
In Lahore, meanwhile, the prime minister held a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to discuss a plan to handle the situation. He is reported to have asked the chief minister to ensure that law and order was maintained in the city. The chief minister said in a statement that every possible step would be taken to protect people’s life and property. He said no-one would be allowed to forcibly stop business activities. In a related development, leaders of the PML-Q and Sunni Tehreek announced in the evening that they would support the protest. -dawn