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Violence looms as ‘lockdown’ draws near

Updated November 01, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: As tempers continue to run high over the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) threat to lock down the federal capital, the local administration and police are considering setting up a sub-jail to detain the party leadership, sources told Dawn.

Officials said on condition of anonymity that a rest house located near the Simly Dam was selected for the purpose but the idea was later dropped when PTI workers started streaming toward nearby Banigala abode of their leader, Imran Khan.

“That the party workers may storm the selected detention centre looked a real possibility,” one official explained. Later, the choice for a sub-jail – if need arose - fell on some houses on the Embassy Road, according to the sources.

One of the houses had served as a detention centre for “some foreigners” in 2011 and 2012.

Meanwhile, more containers have been brought to secure the Red Zone of the capital city where important government buildings and foreign missions are located.

Most likely, they will be used to seal off Khyaban-i-Suhrawardy, Kashmir Highway, Murree Road, Aga Khan Road, Shahrah-i-Jamhuriat and the Third Avenue, the officials said.

Security has also been beefed up around the Diplomatic Enclave, especially at its entry points.

PTI leaders Arif Alvi and Imran Ismail were arrested briefly at a police picket on Kurang Road on Monday afternoon when they tried to reach Imran Khan’s house, said the officials.

When disallowed, the two leaders staged a sit-in at the place. That made the administration to rush more police personnel to the spot.

After fruitless negotiations, the police forcibly bundled them into a van and drove them away to the Secretariat police station only to be released.

A police officer confided that orders to release the two PTI leaders “came from high-ups” but would not identify the high-ups.

It was suspected that the order came from the interior minister, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, who had told a press conference overnight that police have instructions to arrest no one except “trouble-makers”.

PTI MNA Shireen Mazari told mediapersons that she was also intercepted at several police pickets on her way to Imran Khan’s house. She said police snatched her car keys during the attempt.

While she was walking towards the party chief’s house, a citizen gave her lift in his car, she said.

Police have dug up Rukhsana Bangash Road at three places to prevent supporters reaching Imran Khan’s house and raised hurdles on approaches to the Red Zone. The ditches were five feet deep and two to three feet across, according to a police source.

Despite these tactics, workers and supporters of PTI were said to be taking to dirt roads individually and in groups to reach Banigala destination.

A group of youngmen was seen arriving armed with slings and marbles. Their use in offence or self defence can inflame hard feelings on both sides.

Observers expect scattered agitation to erupt in the coming days on the Islamabad Expressway, Kashmir Highway and some entry points when the PTI leaders start their planned protest march.

So far 18 cases have been registered at different police station of the capital against the PTI and PML-Q leaders and workers and 319 activists have been put in Adiala jail and one in a state-run hospital, said a police officer.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2016