Demonstrators undeterred by tensions on Constitution Avenue

Published August 29, 2014
Women police constables retreat towards the green belt for a spot of Ludo. When asked why they had brought a board game with them, one of the women quipped, “This is to kill boredom”. — Photo By Ishaque Chaudhry
Women police constables retreat towards the green belt for a spot of Ludo. When asked why they had brought a board game with them, one of the women quipped, “This is to kill boredom”. — Photo By Ishaque Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Thursday proved to be tense day for everyone at Constitution Avenue. With Dr Tahirul Qadri's deadline set to expire in the afternoon, the Red Zone saw a massive buildup of security personnel. who formed a cordon around key buildings such as Parliament House and the Cabinet Division building, no doubt preparing for the worst.But as news of army mediation filtered in and both Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri softened their tone, law enforcers also breathed a sigh of relief and around midnight, the law enforcement presence also began to ease.

Throughout the day, access to the Red Zone was quite limited, with all entrances to Constitution Avenue blocked with containers.

Even pedestrians were not being allowed in and journalists trying to access the venue of the sit-ins had to submit to unusual scrutiny. Policemen also placed barbed wire at several points, ostensibly to block pedestrian access to the sit-ins.

Key buildings were swept by security personnel in the early afternoon and were then evacuated under their supervision. This worried many staffers at Parliament House and nearly everyone was apprehensive as they left the premises.


Security around Red Zone tightened, even pedestrians denied access


Even journalists sitting in the room designated for the Parliamentary Reporters Association inside Parliament House, were asked to leave the building.

The last people to exit Parliament House were six senators, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abassi and other officials from his ministry, who had been at the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources.

The Supreme Court and Secretariat buildings were also evacuated in a similar fashion.

“We have been told to wind up our work and leave by 3:30pm,” said Ahsan Shah, an official at the Ministry of Industries, adding that, “I usually leave a little later to avoid evening rush hour, but this time around we had no choice”.

Late on Thursday night, Raja Nasir Abbas of the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen was stopped as he tried to enter the Red Zone near the Marriott Hotel. At the time, security personnel were not allowing cars or pedestrians through. But Mr Abbas' guards, brandishing their weapons, intimidated the policemen deployed there, who then retreated and allowed the MWM leader to pass.

Participants' resolve

Despite the hectic goings-on, participants of the sit-ins seemed firm in their resolve to stay on in the face of possible police action.

E-7 resident Altaf Hussain, a retired brigadier, reached Parade Avenue on Thursday afternoon to participate in the PTI's sit-in.

Soon after he reached, someone from his family called him and asked him to return amid fears of a possible clash between protesters and law enforcement personnel, but Mr Hussain refused.

He told Dawn he thought this was a 'defining moment' in the country's history and that he wanted to be a part of it.

“I am for a peaceful revolution, but sometimes sacrifices must be made to change the fate of nations,” he said.

Gulab Slier Khan, a PTA supporter of PTI from Dir, told Dawn that he had been excited all day at the prospect of storming Parliament I louse.

“I am ready to occupy parliament because it is currently in the possession of the corrupt, whereas it belongs to the people of Pakistan. But I would never try to enter the Supreme Court building; our judges have been doing a good job,” he said.Naseer Ahmed, a businessman from Faisalabad and a PAT supporter, told Dawn, "I run a factory but it's been non-functional due to the electricity crisis. I figured that since there is nothing to do there, I should join the Inqilab to try and do some good."Abdul Wajid, a mobile phone technician from Mandi Bahauddin said he was ready to occupy any government building Dr T ahirul Qadri asked him to.

Sardar Nawab All, a student of Matric from Attock, said he and fellow party activists had been handed batons to defend themselves in case things went sour.

“The law should prevail for all Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, but unfortunately Nawaz Sharif is a fraud whose words don’t match his deeds,” said Nisar Ahmed, who is providing security to the PAT leader’s container.

“I was the first person to be hit by a police bullet in Model Town and the police even beat me up after I fell down, but the question still remains what did we do – nothing.”

“The Almighty has shown that determination and good intentions eventually bring success,” said Nida, a nurse at a government hospital in Punjab. She, too, was performing the frontline duty in the rescue team.

“We are not here to protest against any individual, but to demand our rights,” said Khizar Hayat, a farmer of Layyah, who was hit by a rubber bullet in the leg.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

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