Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif ignores security warning, takes road to Lahore
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left for Lahore via the historic Grand Trunk Road on Wednesday morning, despite security concerns following a bombing in Lahore.
Amid fears for his safety, Pakistan’s deposed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday left Punjab House in Islamabad for his residence in Lahore via the Grand Trunk Road in a rally aimed at showcasing his popularity.
Addressing his supporters, Sharif said it was his right to go home and that no power could stop him from doing that.
A large number of supporters and party workers earlier arrived at D-Chowk in Islamabad to see off Nawaz.
Before embarking on the journey, the former prime minister held a meeting with key party leaders, including Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi and finance minister Ishaq Dar, local media reported.
While local police and administration have warned against such a public journey, Sharif said that he was not afraid of those who wanted to derail democracy in Pakistan.
At the same time, insiders said he disallowed his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, from accompanying him.
Local media reported that deliberations in the party over the rally’s route continued on Tuesday, with some party circles having opposed the idea of Sharif’s travel via GT Road instead of the motorway due to security threats. They worried that while Nawaz himself would be travelling in an air-conditioned and bomb-proof container, accompanied by his family and senior PML-N leaders, the party’s rank-and-file would be exposed to serious security threats.
The rally would be passing through Jinnah Avenue, D-Chowk, Expressway Chowk and Margalla Road in the federal capital before leaving for Rawalpindi via Faizabad. Traffic on these routes would be diverted to alternate routes.
Nawaz is expected to address public gatherings at D-Chowk, Faizabad, and some other points. The PML-N leadership has instructed party officials to ensure participation in such huge numbers that it takes ‘at least three days’ to reach Lahore.
Nawaz would have overnight stops in Jhelum and Gujranwala before reaching Lahore. For this purpose, PML-N MNAs in both cities have been instructed to make arrangements to accommodate a large number of people. Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir is handling affairs in Gujranwala and MNA Chaudhry Khadim Hussain in Jhelum.
Citing security concerns, the Punjab government has instructed the owners of businesses located along the rally’s route to close their respective offices, shops, restaurants and other establishments ahead of the rally ‘till further orders’.
Security has been heightened in Lahore ahead of the arrival of Sharif as PML-N members believe that the Sunday explosion of a fruit-laden parked truck there was intended to target his convoy.
By Imtiaz Ahmad