ISLAMABAD: The ongoing protest by religious parties has cost the capital city’s police department over Rs120 million so far, and the bill is only expected to rise as the issue drags on further.

Sources told Dawn that Islamabad police has been delaying payments to vendors for various services provided to the force, as well as for the facilities provided to reserve personnel called in from the Frontier Constabulary and Punjab Constabulary.

But even though police officers have repeatedly raised the issue with their superiors, insiders say that the finance ministry has not released a single penny so far.

Finance ministry yet to release funds; vendors clamouring for payments

Security deployment in the capital was beefed up on October 24, when the Ashraf Jalali faction of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah descended on the city and staged a sit-in in Blue Area that ended on Nov 3.

Another faction of the same group, led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, then breached the capital on Nov 7 and has been camped out at the Faizabad Interchange ever since.

Sources said that so far, the meal bill for personnel from the capital police, FC and PC had reached the Rs55m mark. The number of personnel deployed around the sit-in varies according to the situation, sources said, adding that on average, a shift consists of 3,000 personnel to 7,000 personnel.

Moreover, police have also hired over 200 containers to block roads as part of security measures, and their rent has risen above Rs30million.

In addition, five cranes and 10 trailers were hired to move the containers, while 19 water tankers – 15 water takers to refill water cannons and four to supply drinking water to on-duty personnel, had also been hired.

Another 40 vehicles, including buses and wagons were also engaged to transport personnel from their accommodations to the duty spot around the Faizabad. The accumulated fare of all these vehicles has also crossed the Rs10m-mark, sources said.

Other major expenditures include fuel, lodgings for the reserve personnel and medical treatment for those injured in clashes with protesters.

Sources say that vendors are clamouring for payment, but police officials have been stalling and are availing these services on credit.

On Nov 3, police sought a grant of over Rs70million from the government to bear the expenses of security arrangements for the sit-in, sources said.

The supplementary grant of Rs70.5m was sought on a priority basis and at least three reminders were sent to the interior ministry by the inspector general’s office to prevail upon the finance division, but to no avail.

Islamabad Inspector General Khalid Khattak could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.

Separately, the caretaker of the Golra Sharif shrine has called on the government to hold result-oriented talks with the protesting religious leaders since the country could not afford a confrontation.

In a press conference, Pir Nizamuddin Jami said on Tuesday that at the moment, only a few thousand devotees were present in Islamabad, but if high-handed action was taken, more people would pour out onto the streets and the government would not be able to stop them then.

He called for the report, prepared by a committee led by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq on the controversy regarding the change in a Khatm-i-Nabuwat declaration for electoral candidates, to be made public and sought action against those responsible under the law and Constitution.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017

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