PTI supporters forcibly enter Sindh House in Islamabad after hours-long protest

Published March 18, 2022
The broken door of the capital's Sindh House. — DawnNewsTV
The broken door of the capital's Sindh House. — DawnNewsTV
PTI supporters protest outside the Sindh House in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI supporters protest outside the Sindh House in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

PTI supporters on Friday forcibly entered the Sindh House in Islamabad after protesting outside for hours against dissident MNAs who are staying in the building.

Television footage showed PTI workers climbing over the walls of Sindh House with some of them later breaking down the doors to enter the building. They also carried lotas in protest against "turncoats".

Islamabad police later cleared the area and said it had taken 13 of the protesters into custody for rioting.

A first information report (FIR) against the protesters was registered at the Secretariat police station on behalf of Qurban Ali Anwar, the station house officer who was posted there.

The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered under Sections 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 186 (obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions), 188 (disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant), 147 (punishment for rioting) and 149 (members of an unlawful assembly being guilty of committing an offence in the prosecution of a common object) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

According to the FIR, around 15 to 20 PTI members were trying to enter the Sindh House, which is located in the Red Zone where all political activities and protests are banned under Section 144 of the PPC.

The FIR said police personnel reached the spot and asked the protesters to disperse but they did not listen.

The protesters raised slogans and uprooted a gate of the Sindh House in an attempt to enter its premises, the FIR said, adding that 13 of the protesters were subsequently arrested.

'Act of terrorism'

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari dubbed the storming an "act of terrorism" and equated it to an attack on Sindh.

In a statement, he said the "attack" on the Sindh House was "planned" and that "Imran Khan has shown his spite for Sindh by directing [PTI workers] to carry our the attack".

"We don't take law into our hands but we know how to deal with unruly elements," he added.

Bilawal said the "attack on residences of public representatives and judges" was in violation of chadar and chardiwari.

"Imran Khan has been perturbed after seeing his [impending] defeat [in the no-trust vote]," he added.

Meanwhile, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also condemned the incident.

He said in a separate statement that if the prime minister had the support of enough lawmakers, he would have shown his strength in parliament instead of getting Parliament Lodges and the Sindh House attacked.

"The people of Pakistan are seeing who is abiding by democratic values and who wants to drive the country towards anarchy," he added.

PPP leader Sharjeel Memon termed the storming a "failure" of Islamabad police and the interior ministry, saying "we consider the attack on Sindh House an attack on the Sindh province."

The way PTI federal ministers had been questioning why policemen from Sindh were deployed at the building had received their answer now, he said. He claimed that two PTI MNAs — Faheem Khan and Ataullah — were also part of the group that stormed the Sindh House.

"When they were taking such actions, Islamabad police were silent. If Sindh police were not there today, PPP MNAs who were staying inside with their families would be in danger. Imran Khan has been defeated. Now he wants a clash."

Memon appealed to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Supreme Court to "immediately" take notice of this "terrorist attack" inside the Red Zone and for a case to be registered against "federal ministers and MNAs who were involved".

"We are peaceful now. We should not be forced to start such incidents as well which we are not in the mood for right now because we have been [restrained] by our leadership. Do not test our patience."

He said all political matters should be taken to the parliament, warning that if such attacks happened again then "your houses will not remain safe either".

"We have also seen Bani Gala and the Prime Minister House. Then we will see who saves you."

Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani reacted in a similar manner to the incident, saying: "If PTI thugs don't return, then we also know the way to the [Sindh] Governor House."

He said in a statement that PPP workers would surround the Governor House in Sindh if PTI workers would not leave the Sindh House in Islamabad.

Ghani added that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid would be responsible in case of any harm to a lawmaker.

'PPP responsible for what happened'

Meanwhile, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry shared that PTI secretary general Asad Umar has asked party workers to clear Sindh House and be "patient and tolerant".

"If Sindh House is turned into a new Changa Manga, [you] will have to face the public's hatred. As soon as information about the incident was received, secretary general Asad Umar told workers to be patient and tolerant ... stop playing with the public's emotions and respect their mandate," he tweeted.

Talking to DawnNewsTV later, Chaudhry said PPP was "responsible" for the incident, adding that he believed the opposition should move the "turncoats" to another place.

"They are not worthy of living in residential areas," he said, adding that the common man was "displeased".

"Those responsible [for the attack] are those who have kept them (PTI MNAs) there. Immoral things are happening [at Sindh House]. PPP is responsible. The Sindh chief minister has acted irresponsibly by bringing such people to a place where the chief justice of Pakistan lives and other people reside as well," he added.

Separately, in a tweet, Chaudhry again asked that the "turncoats" be shifted to some other place as the Sindh house was located in a very sensitive area, warning that otherwise, "there will be [drama] throughout the month. How many people can be stopped?"

'Unfortunate' incident

Speaking in DawnNewsTV programme News Wise, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said police negligence was behind the "unfortunate" incident, adding that he has directed the Islamabad inspector general of police to arrest those who were involved.

Around 20 to 25 days were left till the no-confidence vote would take place, he said, questioning what would happen if the situation remained the same. "The country is going towards anarchy."

Rashid said the ministry has asked for 1,000 more Rangers personnel to be deployed in the capital and the army could also be called if the situation worsened.

The interior minister said an inquiry was being done as to how the workers entered the Sindh House. "This is a mistake and should not have happened."

He expressed fears of what could happen later in the month when the ruling PTI and the opposition will both hold rallies in the capital, saying "it could get bigger".

He said the PTI was not thinking about cancelling its rally — to be held at D-Chowk on March 27 — but efforts were being made for holding the PTI and the opposition's rallies at different locations.

"I have asked the deputy commissioner to allow both (the government and the opposition's rallies) to come to Islamabad via different routes. I have spoken to the prime minister and he has agreed."

A day earlier, several MNAs from the ruling PTI, who had been 'in hiding' at the Sindh House, revealed themselves — proving that opposition claims of having won over members of the ruling coalition were indeed true.

The revelation came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan and some cabinet ministers accused the opposition of indulging in horse-trading ahead of the crucial vote on the no-confidence resolution, disclosing that Sindh House in Islamabad had become a centre for buying and purchasing members.

Television footage showed PTI MNAs, including some women lawmakers, lounging around the spacious Sindh House, which is located right opposite the official residence of the chief justice of Pakistan.

The building is under the protection of Special Security Unit (SSU) personnel of the Sindh police.

'Only option of thuggery left'

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the "only option left [for the PTI] was thuggery" but it would go wrong as well.

In a tweet, Maryam said the PTI "could not save its government", advising it to save whatever was left of its honour. "You are not an elected government that you would [stay and fight]. This is why only the option of thuggery is left. But this also always goes wrong."

Political activities, protests banned

Earlier today, the Islamabad police said in a statement that all political activities and protests were banned in the capital's Red Zone because of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting next week.

"Indiscriminate action will be taken against whoever violates this," the statement quoted the SSP operations as saying.

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