In a formal letter to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Islamabad district administration on Monday refused to allow the Azadi March in Islamabad. The letter cited the imposition of Section 144 - which prohibits all public gatherings of five or more persons - in the capital as the reason for refusal.
The letter, written by Deputy Commissioner Mujahid Sherdil, states:
"This is with reference to the open source information regarding rally of PTI at ICT scheduled for 14th August, 2014. It is intimated that due to precarious security environment, under section 144 CRPC imposed in Islamabad Capital Territory, all public gatherings and rallies are banned.
Therefore any public event requires prior coordination and permission for necessary security arrangements and relaxation of section 144 Cr. P.C from the District Magistrate of ICT. So far ICT administration have neither received any request from PTI to hold any public event in ICT nor has such a permission being given under the law."
The text of the letter further states:
"Your Party’s input is essential for the ICT administration to ensure effective arrangements for the safety of residents of the ICT and the participants of the rally. Furthermore considering the expected in flow of participants of the rally into ICT, it is imperative for the ICT administration to ensure timely arrangements for traffic and security of public and private property, peace and tranquilly of the masses at large as well as participants of any event."
Sherdil further directed the PTI to, "interact with the ICT administration so that the very serious and fragile security situation (particularly with reference to ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation) should be thoroughly thrashed out. Needless to say that ensuring and safeguarding public life and property is obligatory not only on the administration but also all responsible political parties and law abiding citizens of Pakistan."
With the imposition of Section 144, further restrictions are also in place for the upcoming protests.
According to the notifications issued earlier by the Deputy Commissioner, the city administration has also prohibited the carrying of firearms by ordinary citizens, the use of loudspeakers and sound amplifiers (except for call for prayers and sermons for Friday prayers), the stock, sale, purchase and use of fire crackers and the distribution of hand-bills, pamphlets, affixing of posters and wall-chalking.
A similar letter was issued by chief commissioner of Islamabad to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri which had said that no rally could be conducted in the federal capital city.
The unstoppable PTI
For their part, the PTI is very clear on the issue: the Azadi March will take place, irrespective of the legalities.
"Nothing is stopping this march," PTI senior leader Naeemul Haque tells Dawn.
"They [district administration] know very well that the march is happening – what is stopping them from approaching us or our office to discuss this?"