Islamabad: Pakistan Railways run special trains to transport people from the southern cities of Karachi and Hyderabad to Lahore for Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed's jihadist congregation on last Thursday and Friday.
The JuD event gained prominence as it coupled with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan's call for complete shut down of Lahore on December 4. While sources said PTI's Lahore team wasn't prepared to organize a strike at such short notice, many believe Khan's party postponed its call for strike at JuD's request so that its two-day programme was not disrupted.
One train comprising 20 coaches and carrying up to 1,450 people left the port city of Karachi on Tuesday last while another comprising nine coaches and carrying about 900 people left Hyderabad on the same day. A senior Karachi-based railways officer said that the permission for running special trains was at the discretion of the department's headquarters in Lahore.
“We received a note from headquarters to arrange special trains for JuD,” the official said, adding that JuD has paid approximately Rs 5 lakh ($50,000) to Pakistan Railways. “It's a round trip. The trains will bring back all the people including women and children,” he added. Rauf Tahir, a spokesman of Pakistan Railways, said the permission to run special trains for JuD was given by railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique after a request from the outfit's spokesman.
Apart from Hafiz Saeed, Zakiur Rehman Lahvi, operations commander of banned Laskar-e-Taiba, the parent organization of JuD, as well as several others have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks in India's financial capital Mumbai in November 2008 that killed 166 people.
“It's not the first time that special trains have been run. Any person who can pay, can hire a special train, but he has to make a prior request to the railways headquarters,” he said. JuD workers have erected separate tent cities for male and female participants at Lahore's Minar-e-Pakistan, a favourite venue for Pakistan's mainstream political parties for political gatherings.
The palace has historical significance as it was here that Mohammed Ali Jinnah-led Muslim League passed the Pakistan resolution in 1940.