RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD, Jan 13: As Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ)’s long march on Islamabad started from Lahore on Sunday, the Rawalpindi police sealed the city by blocking all its entry points at the G.T Road.
The long march led by TMQ chief Dr Tahirul Qadri is proceeding to the federal capital on G.T. Road while small rallies coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and different cities of Punjab like Taxila and Attock will be using Peshawar Road to join it in Islamabad.
A senior police officer in Rawalpindi told Dawn that 10,000 personnel would be deployed in the city on Monday. He said security level in the city had been put on ‘red alert’.
“This level of security indicates a severe threat for which the emergency counterterrorism measures are put in place by law enforcement agencies,” he added.
A special team comprising explosive detectors and sniffing dogs will conduct a sweep and search drive on the route of the long march and camps set up by the TMQ to ensure their safety.
The special branch sent an “assessment report” to the district police intimating threats of a terror attack on Dr Qadri and asked the police to take extra security measures for the safe passage of the participants of the march.
Police have set up checkposts and blocked Rawalpindi city’s entry points and link roads by heavy containers and barbed wires.
However, the deployment of the police will be completed on Monday morning.
The reserve police personnel called from the Punjab Constabulary, Police Training School and Sihala Police College have joined the Rawalpindi police to assist them in maintaining peace in the city.
As many as 40 containers have been placed at Mehrabad and Misrial on Peshawar Road; T. Chowk in Rawat, Kahuta Road, Kural Chowk and Naseerabad on G.T. Road.
“It is part of the contingency plan in case the Islamabad administration stops the marchers from entering the capital city,” said Saqib Zafar, the district coordination officer (DCO) of Rawalpindi.
Commissioner Imdadullah Bosal told Dawn that the district administrations of Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum had been directed to make arrangements for the protection of life and property in their respective areas.
When contacted, Israr Ahmed Abbasi, the senior superintendent of police (operation), said a comprehensive security plan had been chalked out to ward off the long march. He said the participants of the rally would not be allowed to enter the city.
“Police checkpoints have been set up at all entry points while 2,000 police personnel have been deployed at Gujar Khan where Dr Qadri is to address the participants of the long march,” the SSP said.
He said the police would seal all the entry points of the city from G.T. and Peshawar roads. “Neither any vehicle nor any person will be allowed to enter the city as all the link roads will be blocked.”
He said TMQ representatives at a meeting had assured the police that the long march participants would not enter Rawalpindi and would use Islamabad Highway from T.Chowk at Rawat to proceed to the federal capital instead of entering the garrison city via the G.T. Road.
The SSP added that the police had also been assured that no procession would be held in the city and the TMQ workers and activists would join the main rally in Islamabad in small groups.
When asked if the Islamabad police stopped the rally from entering the capital at T. Chowk in Rawat, how the Pindi police would handle the situation, the SSP said: “First we will try to negotiate with them and then would consider other options.” He, however, did not elaborate the ‘other options’.
Meanwhile, the city traffic police have prepared a traffic plan on the occasion. According to Syed Ishtiaq Hussain Shah, the city traffic officer, Choor Chowk, Mehrabad, Dhoke Lulial, Dhoke Syedan, Misryal Road, Kalma Chowk, Katchery Chowk, Gulzar- i-Quaid, Chohan Chowk, Khanna Road, Lulial Road, Soan-Kahuta Road, T. Chowk, Faizabad and KRL Road would remain closed on Monday.
He said Dhoke Kala Khan, 9th Avenue, Carriage Factory, Khayban-i-Sir Syed, Lahore Mor, Pindora, New Katarian and Khawaja Corporation Chowk would also be closed for all kinds of traffic.
Islamabad police uncertain
The Islamabad police seem uncertain and unclear about how to deal with the participants of the long march when they reach the capital city on Monday.
On the one hand, the police are preparing to provide security to the participants of the march and on the other they are planning to stop them from entering the city.
It has also been learnt that after negotiations with Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ), the government has decided to allow the participants to stage a sit-in at Jinnah Avenue near Saudi Pak Tower.
A senior police officer requesting not to be identified told Dawn that they were double minded because of the statements of Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
“Two days back, the minister was saying that the residents and traders of Islamabad had requested him not to allow the participants of the march to enter the capital city because it would affect their routine life and business,” he said.
“We confiscated containers to block the G.T. Road at different points to stop the participants from entering the capital,” he said.
However, on Sunday the minister said the participants would be allowed to enter Islamabad and Blue Area had been cleared for them.
Ghulam Ali Khan, the media coordinator for the TMQ, while talking to Dawn said the ministry of interior had conveyed to them a message that a stage can be built near Saudi Pak Tower for the participants of the march.
“A mobile stage is ready and it will be fixed on the notice of one hour. Participants of the march are coming along with mattresses, blankets, stoves and they will prepare food for themselves on the spot.”