Pakistan government criticised for allowing Hafiz Saeed’s Islamabad rally

Islamabad: Facing flak for allowing a rally in Islamabad led by LeT founder Hafiz Sayeed despite prohibitory orders, Pakistan authorities on Thursday defended the move saying the rally had sought prior permission from the city administration.

On Wednesday, a conglomerate led by Sayeed was allowed to hold a rally in Islamabad, where Section 144 (that prohibits assembly of more than four persons) was imposed ahead of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s planned massive ‘lockdown’.

Sayeed, who carries a US bounty of $10 million on his head and is accused by India of masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, led the conglomerate, Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) – an alliance of religious and political groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat – which often hold rallies against India.

“The DPC had sought permission from the capital administration ahead of their rally,” Dawn quoted Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar as clarifying, after being questioned by the media.

“When they asked for permission, the administration did not allow the same place or the number of people (in the procession) that they had asked for. However, the organisation agreed with the terms and did not object,” he added.

The Imran Khan-led PTI had called for a mass protest march towards Islamabad on November 2 to push Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for accountability of his wealth in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks. Khan withdrew the sit-in after the Supreme Court formed a commission to probe the leaks.

The DPC earlier played a crucial role in persuading the Pakistani government to downgrade its ties with the US in 2011.

The DPC held rallies in Islamabad and the Pakistani side of Jammu and Kashmir on October 27 and 28, 2016, to criticise alleged Indian atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir.