ISLAMABAD: Workers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) shifted their party chief Imran Khan’s container to D-Chowk on Saturday, citing logistical issues at the site of their sit-in outside Cabinet Division.

PTI workers claim that though there had been substantial progress in the negotiations with the government, the move to shift the sit-in had no political reasons.

However, political analyst Zahid Hussain was of the view that the decision of the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to shift their camps was the outcome of the Supreme Court’s orders to vacate their previous sit-in venues.

PTI sit-in organiser Ali Awan told Dawn that Mr Khan had announced on Friday night that the sit-in would move back to D-Chowk due to spatial issues.

Party workers claim that the area outside Cabinet Division lacked space, was difficult to reach

“Since most of the participants come here in the evening and stay till late night, we were getting complaints that their walking distance had increased and it was difficult for the families to participate in the sit-in because they had to cross the accommodation area of the PAT supporters,” he said.

“As PAT supporters had also shifted their camps from Parliament House to D-Chowk, we requested them to move their camps as we wanted to shift there instead. The PAT workers, therefore, shifted from D-Chowk to Constitution Avenue just after Fajr prayers on Saturday and we reached D-Chowk around noon,” he said.

After the successive moves, both the sit-ins are now stationed again at their original positions that they had occupied on the night of August 19.

Since the PAT and PTI sit-in started from Aabpara Chowk and Kashmir Highway, respectively, on August 15, the protesters first stormed the Red Zone on August 19 and then made a move towards the Prime Minister House on August 30.

After a heavy clash with the police, the protesters fixed their camps in the Parliament House lawns on August 31. Though they managed to reach the gates of Pakistan Secretariat and Prime Minister House on September 1, the protesters cleared the buildings’ premises and removed their camps on September 5.

“Around noon on Saturday, Imran Khan’s container was shifted to Parade Avenue and necessary security arrangements were made there. A separate section, secured with barbed wires, has been made for women. Media’s vehicles were also moved there,” said Ali Awan, adding the area in front of Cabinet Division was not spacious enough and was muddy.

PTI press secretary Tahir Jameel said their venue outside Cabinet Division had a pungent smell and also lacked sufficient place to sit because of the mud.

“There is a lot of space on Parade Avenue; and there are stairs for the participants to sit on. Moreover, vehicles’ parking area is close to Parade Avenue. At the Cabinet Division, the protesters had broken a water pipeline, so the issue of mud will not be resolved even after the rains,” he said.

Mr Jameel admitted that there had been a progress in the negotiations but there was no political reason behind shifting the venue to Parade Avenue.

PAT media coordinator Ghulam Ali said after Imran Khan’s announcement to shift back to D-Chowk, it was decided to remove PAT camps from Parade Avenue. “We will stay on Constitution Avenue until our demands are accepted by the government,” he said.

Political analyst Zahid Hussain, however, told Dawn that he believed that both the parties had decided to move back because of the Supreme Court’s orders.

“Both PTI and PAT were facing severe criticism for not implementing the court orders, which was why they decided to move back to Constitution Avenue and Parade Avenue. I do not see any role of negotiations in the decision of moving back to D-Chowk,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014