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PTI's Nov 2 'lockdown' changed to 'thanksgiving' rally in Islamabad

Updated November 01, 2016
PTI chairman Imran Khan addresses PTI workers outside Bani Gala. —Reuters
PTI chairman Imran Khan addresses PTI workers outside Bani Gala. —Reuters

Pivoting from protest to peaceful celebration, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday said its November 2 lockdown will instead be marked as a day of thanksgiving in Islamabad.

Addressing a press conference outside Bani Gala, chairman Imran Khan thanked those who were part of his struggle against corruption.

"Go home and rest," Khan told supporters, "You have to return to Islamabad tomorrow to celebrate thanksgiving at Parade Ground."

"I am elated that the investigation into Nawaz Sharif's [alleged corruption] will begin day after tomorrow."

Khan was referring to the Supreme Court's decision taken early today, where it announced the formation of a judicial commission to probe the allegations against the Sharif family in the Panama Papers.

Read: PTI, govt agree to SC offer on Panamagate commission

He said he was most grateful to Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak for his time and effort.

Minister Railways Saad Rafique on Twitter said, "We welcome the decision of Imran Khan to withdraw the call of the sit-in. We should trust the apex court."

Later on Tuesday, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif instructed Punjab police to release all PTI activists arrested during the last few days.

PTI attempts to save face

While declaring the Supreme Court decision a "victory", Imran's announcement is a significant about-turn from what PTI leaders had been saying just hours before.

The party's spokesman Naeem had earlier vowed to go ahead with the November 2 protest in the capital.

Although the PTI had been continually proclaiming it would lay siege to the capital on November 2, and had managed to generate sympathy when it came to its position on the Panama Papers leaks, the protest ran into significant roadblocks.

PTI activists gather to hear their leader. —AFP
PTI activists gather to hear their leader. —AFP

The party was facing difficuly in gathering a sizeable enough crowd as the government had acted swiftly to prevent opposition gatherings, using Section 144 in Islamabad, and separately toughening checks when it came to those crossing from KP into Punjab and the capital.

This was resulting in problems for the party in sustaining the momentum of its protest. In light of this scenario, today’s proceedings at the apex court inadvertently provided the PTI with room to withdraw from its earlier proclamations of laying siege to the capital along with saving face, to some extent.

Govt orders removal of containers

Moments after the PTI changed its course, the government announced that it has ordered the capital adminstration to remove all containers and barricades in the city.

Police started removing their barricades from different routes and entry points. They also started releasing PTI workers from private houses kept in different sectors, a police official told Dawn.com.

PTI officials claim that 383 workers were put behind bars, including more than 100 students. As per police record, around 20 cases are registered against these workers in different police stations of the capital city.

Security officials arrest PTI supporters in Islamabad. —AP
Security officials arrest PTI supporters in Islamabad. —AP

They will be released soon, an interior ministery official said. He added that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar will address a press conference in the evening and will announce the withdrawal and release of all cases and workers.

PTI Spokesman Naeemul Haq called for release of all detained protesters and said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif should ask the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for forgiveness for the treated meted out to them a day earlier.

Imran Khan petitions SC against 'siege' of Bani Gala

Earlier in the day, Imran Khan filed a petition in the Supreme Court against his 'virtual' house arrest, the arrest of "thousands" of PTI workers over the past three days, and the alleged manhandling of female PTI activists.

The petition stated that PTI’s leaders and workers were practicing their constitutional rights to protest and movement within the country, while the federal government had ‘gone on a warpath’. The petition further stated that blockages around Khan's house and deployment of police forces there prevented him from reaching the SC today where he was due to present himself.

'Is asking for justice pressurising judiciary?'

Imran Khan on Tuesday asked if asking for justice from the courts regarding government crackdown on his party workers is tantamount to pressurising judiciary.

"Is asking for justice pressurising the courts?" he asked.

"If we want to know from the courts [why] we are being baton-charged, roads are being blocked and women are being arrested... is this pressurising the courts?"

"What crime have we committed that PTI workers are being arrested? Why was I put under house arrest?"

He also questioned under which law the Pervez Khattak-led convoy of PTI protesters was stopped from reaching Islamabad.

"Nawaz Sharif fought election with ISI [Inter Services Intelligence] money, he doesn’t know what democracy is."

In response to a question about Sheikh Rasheed's tweet that Khan should step down from Bani Gala, the PTI chief said "the captain works according to his own strategy". He had said he has a strategy for Nov 2, when he will leave Bani Gala for the capital "no matter what obstacles" the government puts in his way.

Imran should have joined us in Pindi: Rasheed

Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Shaikh Rashid Tuesday said that PTI chairman Imran Khan should have joined his protest in Rawalpindi on Oct 28.

Talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad, he said that he does not "complain during war times" but the PTI chief should have joined his party in Rawalpindi "at any cost".

On Oct 28, Imran Khan was scheduled to address supporters at an AML-organised meeting at Lal Haveli but later cancelled the plan saying his party is instead gearing up for the Nov 2 protest in Islamabad.

"We want to get rid of Nawaz Sharif at any cost," Rasheed said.

"Now the army need to decide if they are with Erdogan or with people," he said, apparently referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the Turkish president. In reply to a question, he made it clear that he was not inviting the army.

"Yes Musharraf was a dictator but he was better than these thieves."

"We will not spare the prime minister and will follow him like a stinger or silkworm missile until and unless he is sacked from his office," he added.

PML-N demands Imran’s dope test

PML-N MNA Talal Chaudhry on Tuesday demanded that a dope test be conducted of PTI chairman Imran Khan.

“Sometimes he juggles, sometimes he does push-ups... I think you should be tested for doping so it becomes clear how many banned substances you consume,” he said, speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court.

Hitting out at the PTI, he said “how can those who did not obey orders of the Islamabad High Court obey orders of the SC”.

He wondered why Khan has become a “fugitive” and does not show up in court hearings.

Addressing the PTI chief he said: “The protest you are doing is no protest... it is anarchy. And the federal government will not let it succeed.”