LAHORE - Thousands of Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers, mostly females, and victim families staged a sit-in at Istanbul Chowk on The Mall Wednesday, pressing for the demand to make Syed Ali Baqir Najafi’s report on Model Town massacre public.

People started arriving at the venue in the morning and it was jam-packed in the evening when key speaker Dr Tahirul Qadri addressed the fiery participants of the sit-in.

The sit-in was a daylong event that ended at around 10pm on Lahore High Court’s directions. The PAT chief announced staging series of sit-ins in Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan after Eidul Azha as part of Qisas (blood for blood) Movement.

Reiterating his demand of making Justice Syed Ali Baqir Najafi’s report public, Dr Tahirul Qadri called upon the LHC chief justice to constitute a larger bench comprising ‘impartial judges’ for hearing the Model Town massacre case.

“A similar sit-in will be arranged in Faisalabad. After that we will go to Rawalpindi, Multan and other cities. We will reach every part of the country for demanding justice for the families of 14 martyrs,” said Qadri who addressed the participants twice, first at around 6pm and later at around 9:30pm. The PAT and Minhajul Quran International chief could not control his emotions while narrating the event of killings of innocent people, including two women, in Model Town and agony and pain of the victim families. The members of the victim families were also seen weeping during the heart-rending speech of Qadri.

Leaders from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League, Sunni Ittehad Council and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen participated in the rally to support the demand of PAT. Prominent participants were Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

Closure of the portion of The Mall caused a massive traffic jam in the heart of the city from morning till the conclusion of the sit-in. The Police closed The Mall from PMG Chowk to Anarkali for traffic in the morning. Later, the roads leading to the IGP Office and GCU were also closed due to extraordinary rush at the venue of the sit-in. Diversion of traffic to adjoining arteries caused a great inconvenience to commuters. Carrying placards and banners inscribed with the demand of publication of Ali Baqar Najafi’s report, formation of a larger bench and hanging of the culprits, the participants chanted slogans against the rulers. The highly-charged participants continued waving the party flags during speeches of Dr Tahirul Qadri and others.

Qadri, a prominent cleric who has Canadian nationality, blamed ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for their direct involvement in the incident. He repeated old allegations against Sharifs, calling them corrupt, anti-democracy and a product of the military dictator.

Qadri questioned why the report could not be made public. He said his party had been crying for justice for the past three years, but to no avail. He said the days of Sharifs were numbered and now they would go to jail and later hanged for killing innocent people in Model Town. He said Qisas movement would end only after the execution of Shehbaz Sharif and another character.

Qadri termed Nawaz Sharif pioneer of corruption in politics and desecrator of sanctity of vote. He alleged Sharif introduced horse trading in politics and thus desecrated sanctity of vote. He accused the ex-PM of conspiring against Benazir Bhutto during her two tenures as PM, indulged in confrontation with presidents, army chiefs and chief justices. He stated intention to remove articles 62 and 63 was actually aimed at removing checks on the corrupt persons entering parliament. He said Nawaz Sharif wanted to make judiciary powerless. He added Sharif stressed the need for revolution and justice after he was disqualified for corruption and concealing the assets. He claimed he was aware of the names of Hindu and Jews front men of Sharifs abroad.

He lashed out at Nawaz Sharif for accusing the Supreme Court and the judges of doing injustice to him in the Panama leaks case on one hand and filing a review petition against his disqualification before the same court on the other hand. He said: “Had I been in place of judges, I would have first made Nawaz admit and declare that he would respect the judiciary and honour its judgments.” He praised the PAT workers who remained peaceful during hours of distress. He appreciated the victim families for refusing big offers of blood money and courageously demanding justice for their loved ones.

Earlier, the Lahore High Court allowed PAT to hold sit-in on Istanbul Chowk, The Mall, through one-time exception, and directed the party to conclude it before 10:00 pm.

Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh announced the verdict on petition moved by Mall Road Traders Association challenging PAT’s decision of holding sit-in on The Mall.

“I am inclined to allow respondent no. 8 and the affectees to hold the sit-in as a one-time exception and to be quoted as precedent,” Justice Sheikh observed in his judgment.

The judge also observed that the political parties and other sections of the society shall endeavour to find a via media for holding Assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations and jalsas etc in future on the Mall Road in line with the LHC order issued in 2011 and the policy made by the government.