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ISLAMABAD: An official letter delivered to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leadership and lawmakers on Friday warned them of “strict action” if they defied Section 144, enforced ahead of the PTI’s planned lockdown of the federal capital on Nov 2, or their guards displayed or carried arms on the occasion.

Dawn learnt that the party leadership reluctantly accepted the letter addressed to PTI chief coordinator retired Col Yonus Ali, delivered by district magistrate retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed at the residence of PTI chief Imran Khan.

But Mr Khan refused the official an acknowledgement receipt, demanding that the blockade of his house be lifted and party workers arrested overnight be released. He complained that police even arrested workers who were bringing food for their blockaded colleagues.

After long arguments, however, the letter was accepted without acknowledgment.

Official sources said the letter brought to the notice of PTI leaders that Section 144 had been imposed in the city, prohibiting all kinds of gatherings of five or more people, processions, rallies and demonstrations at any public location, the use of loudspeakers, sound amplifiers, sound system and the displaying and carrying of arms.

Mr Ahmed said some of PTI leaders and parliamentarians were observed with armed guards within Islamabad, in clear violation of the law. That will not be tolerated and “legal action will be taken against culprits”, the letter warned.

It had also been brought to the notice of the district magistrate that PTI leaders and workers were organising rallies, processions and gatherings, causing public annoyance and threat to public property in complete violation of Section 144, and were planning to use loudspeakers and sound systems, disturbing public peace in Islamabad.

Such gatherings and activities are a serious threat to public peace and tranquillity, the letter stated, requesting the PTI chief coordinator “to abide by the law and instruct your leaders and workers not to violate Section 144 CrPC”.

The government has enforced Section 144 “to ensure fundamental rights, but not limited to the right of security of citizens and their assets, movement, trade, business or profession, health and education, enjoy quality life, enjoying basic amenities of life including civic service”.

The letter added that it was “needless to reiterate that ensuring and safeguarding life and property is not only obligatory to the administration but also on all political parties and law abiding citizens”.

The second letter

In another letter, the district magistrate warned PTI chief Imran Khan that any violation of law or threat to the peace and tranquillity in Islamabad would not be allowed.

It stated that it had been brought to his notice that “the political party under your command was planning to lockdown and block entry and exit [points] and movements inside Islamabad. A number of residents of Islamabad approached the Islamabad High Court by way of Constitutional petitions for protection of their fundamental rights and they feel threatened of unlawful assemblies and anticipated the lockdown most likely to result in disturbing normal life of residents of the city”.

“Their concerns are more particularly reflected in their pleadings and the consequential orders passed by the court,” the letter stated, and noted that “the government was cognizant and alert to ensure their fundamental rights including but not limited to the right of security of citizens and their assets, the right of freedom of movement, trade, business or profession, education and health, enjoy quality life enjoying, basic amenities of life include civic service”.

It stated that “the lockdown is not permissible inasmuch as it shall, in all probability, deprive the citizens of their fundamental rights”.

According to the second letter “the planned activity is also a serious threat to public peace and tranquillity”. Therefore, it added, necessary restrictions had been imposed in accordance with law in terms of Section 144.

While “the state respects the fundamental rights of association, speech and expression subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law”, the letter to PTI chief offered “to facilitate lawful political gathering and protests, if any, a designated place duly notified by the Capital Development Authority as ‘Democracy and Speech Corner’ is available as sanctified by the orders of the high court”.

Published in Dawn October 29th, 2016