In a late-night address to a rally in the garrison city, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri reminded Gen Raheel Sharif of his promise of securing justice for the victims of the Model Town tragedy and urged the army chief to fulfil it.
Arriving in the city on Saturday night for his party’s planned Qisas Rally in Rawalpindi’s Rehmanabad area, which coincided with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) rally in Lahore, the PAT leader told reporters that the people who had gathered there would not go back without securing justice for the innocent people killed in Model Town two years ago.
Addressing the army chief, he said: “You’re nearing retirement, what will become of your promise? You can ensure justice for the victims and their orphans. If you leave office without fulfilling this promise, how will you be able to face the Maker?”
The PAT chief also threatened to march on Raiwind, asking his supporters: “One option is Islamabad, the other is Jati Umrah; where do you want to go?”He accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of hatching a conspiracy against the country’s sovereignty and even alleged that the PML-N government was behind the Friday’s terrorist attacks in Mardan and Peshawar, because it wanted to take attention off the opposition protests being held against it.
When asked about the FBR notices to persons named in the Panama Papers leaks, he said the FBR was “a helpless organisation”, adding that those who were charged with dispatching these notices were themselves named in the leaks. It was not clear who he was referring to, though some believed this to be an oblique reference to the FBR chairman.
He said that the ruling elite would have to answer for the wealth they had plundered and transferred abroad.
Later, in his remarks at the Rehmanabad rally, Dr Qadri said that the first phase of his protest programme had culminated. “There are two more phases; one in each of my fists. Whenever I want, I can open one fist or the other,” he said, pointedly.
Addressing the gathering at Rehmanabad before Dr Qadri’s keynote address, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed delivered a charged speech in his signature colloquial style, challenging the administration to remove the containers around Lal Haveli. “Otherwise, I’ll march on Islamabad, even if Dr Tahirul Qadri doesn’t!”
“Imran Khan is leading an Ehtesab rally, Dr Qadri is holding his Qisas rally, while ours is a small ‘Nejat’ (riddance) rally,” he mused.
Addressing the PM directly, Sheikh Rashid said: “I didn’t enter politics holding Gen Jilani’s hand” — a reference to the one-time governor of Punjab under Gen Zia.
“Don’t look to the army; Pakistan does not face external threats, all the threats are inside our borders,” he said.
He also addressed the army chief, saying: “If you can hold Gen [Obaidullah] Khattak accountable, then it is also your responsibility to ensure that Tahirul Qadri gets justice for the Model Town tragedy.”
He also challenged the PM to contest elections from Rawalpindi, and tried to justify his career during the rule of Gen Musharraf by saying: “When I went to Musharraf, I had spent seven years in prison and had been a minister four times. When you entered politics, you couldn’t even win a councillor’s election.”