LAHORE - SAJID ZIA/ARSHAD BHATTI -  After the federal government’s refusal to allow a PTI protest rally and sit-in on The Mall on December 22, the Punjab government has decided to confine the protesters either to Minar-e-Pakistan or Nasir Bagh.

Reliable sources confided the Punjab government had assigned various reasons like disturbance to the business community, threat of terror attack, the law and order problem, disturbance to daily public life and others while disallowing PTI to hold a rally on The Mall.

The sources said the district administration had been asked to take steps to address the apprehensions which the people might face in case PTI staged its rally on The Mall. They said a high-level meeting was also expected very soon to consider all aspects of the matter and finalise steps to restrict the protest and sit-in to some open place like Minar-e-Pakistan or Nasir Bagh, However, decision in this regard was also subject to the overall law and order situation, they added.

Meanwhile, the PTI has expressed determination to carry forward the protest rally as per its plan. The party is going to highlight the problems of price hike, bad governance of PML-N at the Centre and in the Punjab and others and wants to turn the rally into a big show of power to mobilise the masses in its favour before embarking on campaign for local government elections. The party leaders say the rising popularity graph of PTI has confounded the rulers, so they are reluctant to allow the rally on The Mall on December 22, which the PTI will hold at every cost.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Mehmood-ur-Rasheed on Monday said PTI would hold its scheduled protest against inflation and unemployment in Lahore at all cost.

Addressing a press conference in his office, Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said PML-N was scared of PTI. He said they did not fear arrests and vowed they would defy all restrictions if the government tried to stop them from staging protest.

He said they had also given an application to the DCO to fulfil legal requirements. But, he said, if the administration did not give them permission, they would stage their protest as The Mall did not belong to anyone. “Hundreds of thousands of protesters will stage a historic protest against inflation, unemployment and policies of the government. At the same time, PTI workers will also stage prost in other cities of Punjab,” he said.

He alleged the Punjab government was committing pre-poll rigging by releasing development funds despite the announcement of local government elections’ date. He warned the Election Commission that if this practice was not stopped, it would be responsible for any situation. He asserted they would not let PML-N rig the LG polls like the general elections.

“We held public meetings at Minar-e-Pakistan many times. I challenge Federal Information Minster Pervaiz Rashid and PML-N to hold just one public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan,” he said.

Flanked by PMAs Raja Rashid Hafiz, Syed Ijaz Bokhari and Ijaz Khan Jazi, the opposition leader said no one could stop their protest. He reiterated peaceful protest against the government policies was their constitutional right, adding the December 22 rally would be peaceful.

A PTI source told The Nation that the party was busy preparing for the protest. He said the district and tehsil level committees had been formed, which would be given responsibilities to mobilise the masses to participate in the protest. He revealed Jamaat-e-Islami and Awami Muslim League would also participate in the protest. “JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan and Sheikh Rashid are scheduled to join the protest,” he said.