PDM rallies converging in Islamabad to stage protest outside ECP – Pakistan

Separate rallies led by different constituent members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – a 10-party opposition alliance seeking to oust the government – have reached Islamabad where a protest will be held outside the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against what is being termed by the PDM as an “unacceptable delay” in the PTI foreign funding case.

PNL-N Vice President Maryam and PPP’s Sherry Rehman shared visuals of separate entourages, each being led by leaders of the respective parties, moving towards a decided meeting point in the capital from where they will head towards the ECP office.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and PPP Senator Sherry Rehman have reached the house of PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman where they are holding a discussion on the arrangements for the protest and the security situation.

Other PML-N leaders including former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Khurram Dastagir are also participating in the discussion.

In a statement earlier today, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that all rallies headed towards the ECP will converge at Kashmir Chowk at 1pm, urging party workers and supporters to make their way to the protest.

“The ECP should start writing down its verdict in the foreign funding case, the people are on their way to receive it. The crime has been unearthed and the thief has confessed,” she said, adding that the commission should complete the inquiry.

According to the PDM leadership, they have no plans to stage a sit-in outside the commission’s headquarters and the rally will disperse after two to three hours.

Some small rallies from Rawalpindi and Islamabad will reach Serena Hotel Chowk from where PDM leaders, including Maryam, Rehman and Ashraf will lead the main rally to the ECP headquarters.

After staging a demonstration, the PDM leaders will address a joint press conference.

All main opposition parties are taking part in the rally with the PML-N expected to play a leading role. JUI-F’s Maulana Fazl will also lead from the front with his party taking out two separate rallies. PPP is joining the PDM power show, but its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, will not be part of it. Instead, other party senior leaders will be seen in the rally.

The foreign funding case against PTI was filed in Nov 2014 by Akbar S Babar, a founding member of the party. He had alleged serious financial irregularities in PTI’s accounts.

The allegations made by Babar included illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank acco­unts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank acc­ounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.

The ECP is expected to hear the funding case against the ruling party on Wednesday.

Tight security

The ECP building has been completely sealed with concrete blocks and barbed wire surrounding it, while a large number of security personnel have been deployed outside it.

More than a thousand security officials, including police and 300 Rangers personnel, have been deployed outside the ECP headquarters, officials said.

Police said all entry and exit points to the capitals’ Red Zone, which houses high-profile buildings such as the Supreme Court and President House among others, have also been sealed.

Police officials have been instructed not to carry firearms; only Rangers will carry firearms. The Special Branch and the CIA have also been deployed for making arrests.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry also established a control room to monitor the protest.

‘Free hand’

Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government had not placed any obstacles for the opposition’s protest.

“The smooth flow of traffic on the capital’s highways is proof of the premier’s pro-democratic mindset. The nation has not forgotten when the PML-N government targeted PTI protesters during a peaceful demonstration,” he said.

These sentiments were also echoed by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. On Monday, he said that the government had decided to give a free hand to the PDM to organise a rally in the Red Zone. But he made it clear that nobody would be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

He said the PDM should know that the Supreme Court, Parliament House and other institutions were situated on Constitution Avenue and the government had taken all necessary security measures for their protection.

Responding to Aurangzeb’s statement, PTI information secretary Ahmed Jawwad said that the movement which was “rejected by the people has started on the path to fascism”.

“The disappointed and defeated opposition has started threatening the institutions […] First the Supreme Court and accountability courts kept asking them for receipts [of their transactions] and now the ECP is asking them.

“The [PDM’s] attempt to keep dead politics alive through threats and coming down on institutions has not been successful and will not be successful,” he said.