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ISLAMABAD: Section 144 has been in force in the capital since the days of Gen Pervez Musharraf, and continues to be renewed every few months.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) bans the gathering of five or more people and the holding of public gatherings and rallies.

Those wanting to host such gatherings have to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the relevant authorities which, according to police officials, the PML-N did not request.

The last time section 144 was renewed in the capital was in July, a district administration official told Dawn. In October 2016, when PTI chief Imran Khan had announced plans to lock down the capital, his Banigala home was besieged by law enforcement personnel.

In addition, PTI workers heading towards capital from KP, led by the provincial chief minister, were beaten back from Attock Bridge by Punjab police.

When it wanted to observe a day of thanksgiving soon after the announcement of the SC decision disqualifying Nawaz Sharif, the PTI had to obtain an NOC from the capital administration.

This was a fact that former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan repeatedly alluded to whenever he held press conferences to criticise the PTI and its tactics.

However, no such requirement was fulfilled on Wednesday, but even then, over 3,100 law enforcement personnel, including the anti-riot unit, anti-terrorism squad, commandoes, traffic police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary, were deployed along the rally’s route, police officials said.

Police personnel were also stationed on roof tops along the route, including in Blue Area. The police used explosive detectors and dogs to check the rally’s route before it started and adjacent areas were also combed.

Various teams of the capital administration were deployed at different localities under the supervision of 12 assistant commissioners and magistrates.

Shopkeepers in Blue Area closed down their shops when the rally was passing through to avoid any untoward incident and offices in the area were also shut down.

Almost all traffic police personnel of the city were deployed around the rally so they can seal off the route and guide the public towards alternate routes. Traffic officials said there was hardly any traffic in the city when the rally was passing through.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2017