LAHORE - After being denied entry to the Punjab Assembly, the PML-N lawmakers Wednesday held a protest ‘session’ outside the main gate against the arrest of Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif.

The ‘assembly’ of PML-N MPAs to record protest against the nabbing of former chief minister was decided by the Central Executive Committee of the party at a Saturday meeting, chaired by party Quaid Nawaz Sharif.

A requisition by Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz was made the same evening to the PA speaker for convening the sessions by Tuesday, warning that otherwise they would hold their own session outside the assembly in protest the next day.

The proceedings of the self-convened session were conducted by former speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan, on the road outside the main gate of the Assembly.

Of the total strength of 161 PML-N Punjab Parliamentarians, a significantly lesser number turned up for the protest session however participation of a number party workers made it a convincing show.

The protesting members chanted loud slogans to condemn arrest of Shehbaz Sharif and demanded his early release from the NAB custody.

Hamza, who is a son of Shehbaz, had called the members to gather outside the chamber of the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday. The party had planned to hold the session at the stairs of Assembly but the security deputed there closed the main gate and denied them entry into the premises.

MPAs had reached the main gate crossing over the hurdles of barbed wires and barricades placed on road outside the Assembly. In a bid to reach the assembly gate and proceed ahead into the building, the MPAs applied pressure on the police deputed on road to restrict their movement.

No physical clash took place between the two sides however and the members managed to reach the assembly door anyway, which was not opened to them despite repeated attempts by the members.

At a point some members jolted and pushed the gate to break it open but the seniors among their ranks desisted them from using sheer physical power. The decision to check their entry to the assembly premises was strongly resented by the members while speaking in the ‘House’ on the road.

Loud sloganeering continued by the members for long time after the members had held sit-in on the road. The situation became even more heated when Hamza reached the venue at around 4pm.

Rana Iqbal Khan stopped the members from calling him speaker although he allowed point of order to various members and himself addressed the ‘House’.

The former speaker termed closure of the gate to the members an insult to the mandate given to them by the public and to the democracy. He said they had already informed the speaker about their peaceful protest and barring their entry showed government’s dislike for the democratic traditions and norms.

Condemning arrest of Shehbaz Sharif, Iqbal counted his achievements for progress of the province and appreciated his role in fetching Chinese investments and setting up plants to end loadshedding in the country.

The world gave tremendous accolade to Shehbaz for his progressive vision and it was pity that the same person today was in lockup for a offence that he never committed, he added.

The protest session ended peacefully without announcement of any date for a second phase of the protest.

The report about order of the NA speaker for production of Shehbaz Sharif in the assembly on October 17 was also received during the protest session.

Hamza’s address

Assessing the lawmakers on road, Hamza demanded the NAB also hold probe into the assets of Aleema Khan, the sister of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

When investigation can be held against Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz and they could be sent to jail for no fault then why can others not be held accountable for their illegal assets.

Strongly condemning the authorities’ denying the MPA entry to the PA building, he said the locks have not been put on the assembly gate but on the democracy.

It is politics of the PTI to hurl abuses on the container when in opposition and curb rights of elected members when in power, he observed.

Hamza also grilled the PTI government for going to the IMF for loans after Imran Khan had announced that he would rather commit suicide than approaching the Fund.

He said within weeks of its coming to power, the PTI has pressed the poor too hard financially and threw on them the bomb of hike in prices of gas and electricity as well as items of daily use.

Only in a day the government has raised volume of foreign debts to Rs900 billion by devaluating the rupee against dollar, he said, pointing finger at the governance and the policies of the PTI government.

Leader of the Opposition targeted Prime Minister Imran Khan and said, Khan never told the truth and in the case of appointing Sardar Usman Buzdar as chief minister, he concealed the fact that Buzdar had been involved in a murder case and had got him exonerated by paying diyat.

He said if Imran Khan wanted to lay hand on the corrupt, he should first of all arrest Aleem Khan, who is known as a land grabber, and others standing around him.

Imran should call to account Speaker Pervez Elahi too who owed Rs22 billion to BoP (Bank of Punjab) and his son (Moonis) for NICL scam, he demanded.

Hamza said the masses today wanted to know why Muhammad Tahir was removed as IG Punjab as reports are abuzz that action on him has been taken for registration of cases against the son of minster Mahmudur Rashid and qabza mafia ring leader, Munsha Bumb.

He praised the government of Nawaz Sharif during which, he said, the country saw unprecedented progress. Nawaz, he said, lives in the heart of the masses who have rejected the ‘fake mandate’ of the PTI and Imran Khan.

Former Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq in his address accused Imran Khan of seeking clash with the opposition while reading his statement on the arrest of corrupt at a press conference in Lahore as open threat to the rival politicians.

He said the PTI government holds no serious business of the governance in hand but wants to strike against the opposition and make life of the poor miserable by jacking up prices of consumer items and the utilities. Pointing at Imran Khan, Saad said, “You want to capture us, (instead) we will hold you by your collar.” He said by voting the PML-N in the by-election, the masses will again reject ‘Bal Thackerays’ of Pakistan. He also questioned how Imran could hold others accountable when he himself was ‘dishonest.’ He said they do not want to mount the containers but Khan wants them to do so. He warned the PTI government of street protest if it did not mend its ways.