LAHORE: Immediately realising the backfire potential of the “Danda Force” policy, the Punjab government plans to “softly” handle Imran Khan’s Sept 30 rally at Raiwind, treating it as yet another “meaningless” protest.
“There’s no plan to repeat any Model Town-like situation as this does not suit the government whom peace suits the most,” a senior official said on Sunday.
The media had shown PML-N workers flexing their muscles and brandishing batons on Saturday, threatening to “see” the PTI if it dares come close to the Raiwind estate of the Sharif family. In response, a “(cricket) Bat Force” of the PTI activists emerged on television screens on Sunday to handle the “Danda Force.”
Later in the day, PTI chairman Imran Khan announced in Islamabad that the party would march on Raiwind on Sept 30.
The party had earlier announced that it would hold the rally in front of the Raiwind residence of the Sharif family. But later it changed the venue to Adda Plot, some 5km from the residence in view of the objections from political circles.
The allied PPP and the PAT of Dr Qadri had also refused to join the protest rally.
And government officials took the announcement calmly on Sunday. A senior official said the government would handle the rally softly. He said right now there was no specific plan on how to tackle the rally. But there should be one at the official level to regulate the rally and provide security to its participants and the PTI leadership.
“Special meetings will be held to define the route of the rally and to contain it to Adda Plot,” he said.
Another official said like in the past the PTI leadership would be requested to refrain from taking so many people on the road in view of the threat of terrorism. Or, responsibility of any eventuality would lay squarely on it.
And under the cover of this caution, there would be a security plan for the route of the rally and its culmination plan which would also ensure protection of public life and property from the participants. They would never be allowed to move an inch ahead of Adda Plot.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the show of the “Danda Force” was the act of some emotional PML-N workers. The government would handle the rally dispassionately, allowing the PTI to use its democratic right of protest.
Nevertheless, he expected the PTI leadership to sit with the administration to decide the route of the rally and its culmination point, and abide by the security plan necessary in view of terrorism threats.
“This is going to be another Imran Khan rally. At least we will make it so,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2016