LAHORE: The Punjab police have begun impounding hundreds of containers, most of which were carrying exports goods headed to Karachi port, in different parts of the province apparently to stop activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led opposition parties from enforcing the lockdown of Islamabad on November 2.

The district police with the help of traffic police started impounding containers on Wednesday night and continued the confiscation activities on Thursday, days before the PTI’s plan to lock down Islamabad.

The containers were confiscated on the national and provincial highways. They have been impounded at state-owned properties in Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Sheikh­upura, Jhelum, Gujrat, Mian­wali, Dunyapur, Lodhran, Rah­im Yar Khan, amongst others.

“Hundreds of containers have been impounded by policemen since Wednesday night at the cost of exporters and transports’ businesses,” said All Pakistan Transport Owners Federation Secretary General Malik Wasim Khokhar.

“The PML-N-led Punjab government has developed the habit of harassing transporters instead of making its own arrangements like the Sindh government which has purchased 200 containers of its own for law and order duties.”

He told Dawn that the transporters were not informed by the Punjab government about its requirement of containers for the Nov 2 Islamabad show.

Mr Khokhar said according to his information a good number of containers captured from Multan Road were parked at Phoolnagar Cricket Stadium.

Pakistan Textile Exporters Association spokesman Azizullah Gohar said police were as usual impounding only loaded containers at the cost of exporters’ businesses to block the outskirts of major cities and all roads leading to Islamabad.

“A week-long impounding of exports goods means the cancellation of shipments, spoiling of certain goods and violation of exporters agreements with foreign buyers,” Mr Gohar said.

A source in the Punjab police told Dawn that the decision to impound containers to block the caravans of the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) was taken a couple of days ago in the cabinet committee meeting presided over by the Punjab chief minister.

He said district police officers received verbal orders to create hurdles on all leading roads of the province one or two days before Nov 2, adding the closure of motorways was also an option that could be exercised in the near future.

The source said the Punjab police required at least 400 containers for the purpose.

A Punjab police officer associated with the development, while speaking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, claimed that impounding containers was done to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident of terrorism during the Islamabad lockdown.

He, however, said the Punjab police authorities had no specific policy guidelines from the Punjab government to block activists of the PTI and its allied parties by using containers.

The source said district police formations would act under the law and order guidelines to maintain peace on roads and cities.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2016

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