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[Azadi] march madness: 6 days to go

Updated August 08, 2014

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Shah Mehmood Qureshi - File
Shah Mehmood Qureshi - File
PTI chief Imran Khan and Prime Minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. — File photo
PTI chief Imran Khan and Prime Minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. — File photo

On the rousing call of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, a million people are planning to advance to the capital for the party’s ‘Azadi’ march.

With politicking in full swing, it is still a matter of conjecture how things will eventually play out.

With six days left to the march, will parties wanting to mediate the crisis emerge successful? How powerful are the hawks in PML-N and PTI? Do we foresee a prolonged sit-in or a resolution may soon be in order?

Below is a round-up of the day’s political happenings and statements which will be updated in the build-up to August 14.


If the Army steps in, it will be PML-N’s fault, warns Imran


Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, PTI chairman Imran Khan lambasted the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying that when he was demanding justice, no one paid heed and now that he is planning to take to the streets, people were worried that it may result in the imposition of a martial law.

“If the army steps in, it will be because of you! The high-handed measures (that the government) is taking, I can tell you with confidence: there is no question that they can stop the Azadi March,” said Khan.

He said August 14 would see a war between two ideologies — between monarchy and the will of the people.


Imran will not attend national security conference


Imran Khan has decided not to participate in the national security conference scheduled for tomorrow.

Khan was invited to the conference which has been called to discuss the country’s internal security situation.

PTI will now be represented in the conference by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak.


Imran cannot postpone march for political reasons: Khurshid Shah


Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah on Friday said it appears that Imran Khan cannot postpone his long march due to political reasons.

Speaking to media representatives outside Parliament House in Islamabad, the PPP leader said political parties trying to mediate in the ongoing political crisis were not siding with the government but trying to save the system.

He said political parties have given countless sacrifices for the restoration of democracy in the country.

The PPP leader was also of the opinion that the government should allow PTI to go forward with its long march, adding that the crisis can be resolved if the government demonstrates some magnanimity.

Responding to a question, Shah said it was not possible to implement a minus one formula in the current political crisis, adding that no party would be okay with the exclusion of its leader from the political arena.


Punjab govt resorting to ‘state-terrorism’, claims Qadri


Pakistan Awami Tehrik chief Dr Tahirul Qadri said the Punjab government was resorting to ‘state-terrorism’ in their crackdown against activists and supporters trying to reach his Model Town Residence in Lahore.

Qadri has given a call to his workers for marking Youm-i-Shuhdaa (martyrs’ day) on Aug 10 in connection with the killings of 14 PAT workers on June 17.

The PAT chief claimed the government was carrying out mass-detentions of PAT workers and had blockaded all roads to his residence, turning the situation in Model Town similar to that in Gaza.

He said such tactics by the government will not stop ‘the revolution’.


Section 144 imposed in Islamabad


The capital city administration has imposed Section 144 in Islamabad.

The section prohibits more than five people to congregate.

The notification from the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad comes as the PTI gears up for its ‘Azadi’ March on August 14.

According to a notification by the Deputy Commissioner's office, Section 144 will be in place in the federal capital for the next two months.

The section also prohibits pillion riding on motorcycles and public display of weapons.


Rejected elements do not pose threat to democracy: Mushahidullah Khan


PML-N Central Secretary Information Senator Mushahidullah Khan Friday said elements, which had been rejected in the general elections, did not pose any threat to democracy.

Speaking to media representatives outside Parliament House, he said people who had already been rejected in the general elections were now trying to hatch conspiracies against democracy but their agenda will be rejected again.

He said Pakistan Awami Tehrik chief Dr Tahirul Qadri had no role in the country's politics, and he forcefully gathered employees of Minhajul Quran to gain political mileage.

Mushahidullah asked Qadri to carry out audit of the funds collected earlier to stage a sit-in at D-Chowk against the last PPP government.

He said leadership of the main political parties had rendered sacrifices for the restoration and strengthening of democracy in the country.

Responding to a question, Mushahidullah said Qadri’s statement regarding the shifting of Shairf family aboard had no reality.

In response to another question, he asked Imran Khan to respect the mandate of the people.


PTI's core committee to meet on Sunday


PTI chief Imran Khan has summoned a meeting of the party's core committee on Sunday in Islamabad.

The meeting which will be held at Imran's residence on August 10 will discuss the party's preparations for the million march.

It is also expected that Imran will brief members of the core committee on the details of the options put forth by the government in relation to the march.


Army helicopter requested


The Punjab government requested the federal government on Friday to be provided a Pakistan Army helicopter for PAT’s ‘Day of Martyrs’ and the PTI’s ‘Azadi March’.

The Punjab government also requested the center for permission to suspend mobile phone services for the occasions as a security measure.


'We're back to the Musharraf era'


PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi lambasted the PML-N led government on Friday for allegedly carrying out arrests and detainment of party workers in the lead up to the Azadi March.

He termed the attitude of the government as "the same as that of the Musharraf era".

Qureshi also said Article 245 had been condemned by all political parties, well beyond just the PTI. He demanded Article 245 be withdrawn.


Imran should give assurance of 'security' during 'Azadi' march: Rafique


Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Friday said that if Imran Khan is not willing to halt his long march, he should give assurance to the government that there will be no harm to the property and lives of the people during the event.

Rafique said Imran should consider the country’s security situation before deciding on or taking any drastic steps.

He said the country was in a state of war and going through a host of challenges, adding that those displaced as a result of the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan were homeless.

In this situation, it is odd that Imran should ramp up about his march, the minister said, adding that instead of demonstrating on the streets the PTI chief should offer to extend some assistance to help the IDPs resettle.

He emphasised that to win the war against terrorism, it was imperative that political parties should form a united front.

Rafique said showing some maturity and patience for the country’s sake and for democracy Imran should postpone the march.

Moreover, he said that the demands placed by Imran are unconstitutional but the government will still consider them in order to retain peace in the country.


PM calls national security conference, invites parliamentary leaders


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has summoned a national security conference for Saturday which contrary to normal practice will also see attendance from parliamentary leaders of various political parties.

Sources say the conference had not been planned and was summoned on an emergency basis to discuss the political scenario prevailing in the country in relation to PTI's million march.

The conference is also scheduled to discuss matters relating to the country's internal security and the prime minister is expected to be briefed on the anti-terror war as well as the military operation under way in North Waziristan.

It will also see attendance from all four chief ministers, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif as well as Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam.


PAT workers clash with police, three officials injured


In a dangerous flashback to the Model Town tragedy, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters on Friday clashed with security personnel near PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri's residence.

A PAT delegation under the leadership of Dr Raheeq Abbasi was protesting near Qadri's residence when he allegedly ordered protesters to break barriers placed by the police in the area.

Following Abbasi's alleged instructions, enraged PAT members clashed with the police. Three police officials were injured in the skirmish.

Security forces resorted to spraying tear gas on the demonstrators to bring the clash to an end.

Qadri has announced that his party will observe a 'Day of Martyrs' on August 10, to commemorate the lives lost in violent clashes that broke in Lahore's Model Town on June 17.

His resolve to agitate against the PML-N led government has played a major role in rising political tensions as the date of the PTI’s march approaches.


Leaves of Islamabad police cancelled


With the PTI's march around the corner, leaves of Islamabad police personnel have been cancelled.

A notification issued by Inspector General of the Islamabad Police Aftab Ahmed Cheema on Friday said all personnel of the force are to report to duty.

The notification is effective from today until further orders.


LHC forms larger bench to hear petitions against PTI's march


Chief Justice Lahore High Court (LHC) Khwaja Imtiaz Ahmad has constituted a larger bench to hear petitions against PTI’s Azadi march.

The bench comprises of Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan, Justice Shahid Hameed and Justice Anwarul Haq.

Headed by Justice Mehmood, the bench was formed after the judge on Thursday requested Justice Imtiaz to constitute a larger bench to hear petitions against the march.

The question of a larger bench emerged on Thursday when Justice Mehmood was hearing a petition moved by a citizen, Kamran, on the matter. At the time, senior advocate, A.K Dogar, pointed out that a similar petition was also pending adjudication before another bench of the court.

Dogar had then asked the judge to refer the matter to the chief justice for formation of a larger bench. He was of the view that the petitions carried important legal questions that needed greater interpretation.


Other meetings, calls


Finance Minister Ishaq Dar phoned MQM Chief Altaf Hussain on Friday to discuss both the national security conference scheduled for Saturday, and the PTI’s upcoming long march.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar met with Jamaat-i-Islami Secretary General Liaquat Baloch and JI leader Mian Aslam at the Punjab House in Islamabad.

The meeting was arranged to discuss the country’s political developments and talks that have been held among various political parties on how to resolve the situation which is beginning to assume critical proportions.