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ISLAMABAD: An operation ordered by the interior minister, to barricade around 303 homes in the use of foreigners, was called off at the last minute due to behind-the-scenes developments on Wednesday, sources in the interior ministry and the police said.

A statement issued by the ministry on Wednesday evening stated that the foreigners had submitted their details to the police. A statement issued around two hours prior said that action would be taken against the foreigners in two hours, and entry and exit from the houses in their use would be blocked.

Reports were also invited by the police and ministry officials after 5pm to cover the action.

On Tuesday, the interior minister asked capital police to serve final notices regarding 303 houses for the lack of details regarding who was using or residing in them, sources said. They added that the deadline they were given was 6pm on Wednesday.

The final notices for the provision of information for the Islamabad household survey stated: “You, occupant/resident of house were required to provide information/data of the residents of the premises.”

Sources quoted the notices as saying: ”Since you have wilfully avoided furnish/provide the information which amount to withholding information required in the public interest, which had serious implication for the security of the capital, it being culpable makes you liable for punitive action necessitated by the present security environment.”

The notices said this constrained law enforcement to block entry and exit from the premises until information was provided. They read: “You are finally called upon to furnish the requisite information within 24 hours and in case of your failure, the authorities shall block the entry and exit of the premises by 6pm tomorrow i.e. 16-03-2016 and this be treated as final notice.”

The notices were served to 181 houses within the limits of the Kohsar police station, followed by 99 in the limits of Margalla police, 16 in Aabpara, four in Shalimar and three in Industrial Area, sources said.

A ministry press notification issued at 6pm on Wednesday stated that all the foreigners who had not given their information previously, had not submitted it to the police. It stated that: “Two hours before the deadline, all the foreigners, majority of them are diplomats submitted their details and information to the police.”

It went on to say that the interior ministry had been collecting information on the city’s residents for the last 18 months for security purposes.

Although the press notification stated that the required details were submitted two hours before the aforementioned deadline – which would be 4pm – a press notification was issued by the ministry at 4:10pm which stated that action would be taken after two hours against the concerned houses.

Ministry and police officials said that around half of the 303 houses’ foreign occupants and residents had submitted their details. The majority of these were said to be diplomats, and their details were sent to the police by their embassies or by the Foreign Office.

Sources said they are still receiving information from various authorities, and are hopeful that the percentage will increase.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2016