LAHORE - The ‘Go Nawaz Go’ slogan has embarrassed the ruling party leaders so much that the Punjab government has devised a plan to prevent resounding of this contagious slogan in the educational institutions.

The political slogan has been reverberating at public places, educational institutes and ceremonies over the past few weeks, causing embarrassment to the ruling elite.

The provincial government has issued directions to the provincial education directorates to counter it at university, board, college and school functions, sources in the CM office disclosed.

“The step was taken in view of the approaching local bodies’ elections,” said a party leader, adding that they feared the anti-government move could damage the party image.

The ‘contagion’ had spread so rapidly that even the bureaucrats serving in Punjab, especially the field officers including the DCOs, ACs etc, had expressed fear that they could have to face such slogans during their interaction with public.

As per the government instructions, the public body where the CM or any of the cabinet members would be slated to address a gathering would manage the situation, said an officer on condition of anonymity. He said as per instructions for every 15 students attending any ceremony, a responsible officer, teacher or professor would be deputed to control them and prevent them from chanting anti-Nawaz slogans. If any student is found guilty of raising such slogan, the official concerned would be held responsible, he added.

The source officer said that before the CM, a minister or a lawmaker addresses the functions at any educational institution, the high-ups of the relevant Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education or public sector university, or the head of the concerned body like Board chairman, vice chancellor or principal would make such arrangements as to avoid ugly situations.

Many PML-N senior politicians including MNA Hamza Shahbaz and advisers had conveyed to the CM that distance of party high-ups from public gatherings would encourage opposition elements who already had launched a campaign against the government through public rallies. They said that such a situation was damaging for the party which has to appear in local bodies’ elections soon.

A college principal talking on the instructions said that placing such restrictions on student sentiments was beyond understanding. He confirmed that such instructions had been issued verbally and the officers threatened tough action against such students as would raise anti-government slogans during functions to be addressed by the CM and other ministers. He said it was a democratic tradition to raise slogans even against the sitting government because most people have some ideological conviction.  He said that instead of devising such odd strategies the CM and ruling party should resolve issues the masses had been facing for decades. He feared that the rising anti-Nawaz move in the educational institutions could disturb academic environment.

Sources in the Chief Minister Secretariat said that the strategy was devised after pondering upon the situation in the wake of the anti-government campaign launched by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) during sit-ins at Islamabad. They confirmed that the CM, the ministers and senior party leaders had expressed dismay over such situation that hindered them from mixing up with the public as they feared such petulant slogans.

Such instructions have been issued to the Education Secretariat that would pass them on to the directorates concerned, the source said. Sources also said the secretariat along with the school and college directorates would implement the instructions.

“The CM himself and his cabinet members along with his legislatures had expressed serious concerns over anti-government sloganeering during public functions,” said an officer seeking anonymity. He said that before the general elections were held last year, the CM had distributed laptops among the youth to avert their leaning toward the PTI, and Maryam Nawaz had addressed student gatherings at different women colleges to raise party support among the youth. But, the current campaign against the Nawaz government had once again impressed the youth who miss no opportunity to raise anti-government slogans, he said.

The officer said that the ruling party brass and the bureaucracy were on the same page to counter the anti-government drive being led by the PTI chief and they wanted to curb it at any cost. “The police may be involved in the issue if the civil administration fails to counter the anti-government drive,” he remarked. When tried to reach, spokesperson for provincial government Zaeem Qadri was unavailable for comments.

The CM, the ministers and party leaders have distanced themselves from public meetings fearing they could face the embarrassing slogans. Hamza Shahbaz had to cut short his speech at an event marking World Tourism Day when some people in attendance started chanting anti-government slogans as he was about to answer a question pertaining to PTI chairman Imran Khan’s allegations against the government at Alhamra Hall.

Students in Multan shouted ‘Go Nawaz Go’ at former PTI president Javed Hashmi. A student was injured after a quarrel broke out between two groups of students over chanting of this slogan in Peshawar’s Islamia College University. A PML-N MPA, Toufiq Butt, irked by ‘Go Nawaz Go’ chants by the protesters in Wazirabad, attacked the people when PM Sharif visited the area post-floods.

During the All Parties Conference organised by Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA), some lawyers belonging to the PTI started chanting ‘Go Nawaz Go’. The same slogan was heard during a Senate Standing Committee meeting. A student started chanting ‘Go Nawaz Go’ during Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal’s speech at Preston University. The same slogan was reverberated near Nawaz Sharif’s residence in London, outside the UN headquarters in New York, and even during Pakistan’s hockey team match in the Asian games in South Korea.

On such slogans Maryam Nawaz had to tweet that PML-N workers have had enough of PTI’s ‘vandalism’ and PTI supporters would not find a place to hide if PML-N resorted to respond to it. ‘Go Nawaz Go’ chants also made its way to the corridors of justice as it was challenged in the Lahore High Court.