Possibility of showdown on Sunday worries opposition

Published April 2, 2022
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif addresses a press conference in Islamabad on March 28. — AFP/File
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif addresses a press conference in Islamabad on March 28. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: While referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement to gather 100,000 supporters outside the Parliament House on Sunday when voting will be held on the no-confidence move, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has called on the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration to ensure the security of every parliamentarian irrespective of party affiliation.

On the other hand, Islamabad’s security level was being raised to red while police commandoes had been provided to Shehbaz Sharif in view of the changing situation.

Meanwhile, a dissident MNA from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has accused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan of creating an “Afghanistan-like situation” after an audio of the chief minister got leaked in which he can be heard directing cabinet members and party MPAs to stage protest and carry photographs of those PTI parliamentarians who had switched sides.

In a letter addressed to the chief commissioner, deputy commissioner (DC) and inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad, Shehbaz Sharif sought complete security for all MNAs who would be voting on Sunday (April 3).

PML-N president provided police commandoes, security at residence; leaked audio reveals KP CM’s instructions to ministers, MPAs

“It is your constitutional and legal duty and responsibility to ensure full security/protection to all MNAs, irrespective of political affiliation, when they attend the National Assembly for exercising their right to vote on the resolution for a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister under Article 95(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Mr Sharif wrote.

He said the National Assembly was scheduled to meet on Sunday at 11:30am when voting on the above-mentioned resolution would be held.

Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conversation with media representatives on March 29 during which he said 100,000 PTI supporters would gather outside the Parliament House on the day of the voting, the opposition leader, in his letter, said any such gathering would be in blatant violation of the additional district magistrate’s order dated March 18 that prohibits gathering of five or more persons inside the Red Zone under Section 144 of the CrPC.

The letter further said any such gathering would inevitably provoke other parties to bring their own supporters for self-protection, which might lead to bloodshed and chaos.

Shehbaz Sharif said the onus was on the capital administration to enforce the law and ensure safe passage to all MNAs to and from the National Assembly on Sunday (April 3) when the resolution was voted upon, adding that security arrangements must be foolproof as no negligence or any excuse of inadequate preparation would be accepted as in the Sindh House incident.

Meeting with ICT admin

Meanwhile, sources in the capital administration said a PDM delegation met Islamabad’s Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed and discussed various issues, including security of the MNAs.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, officers of the capital administration and police told Dawn that the prevailing political situation had put prominent leaders of the opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) as well as dissident PTI members and lawmakers from the former coalition partners under severe threat.

“Their security is at high risk, especially after a call was given to PTI activists and members to reach Islamabad on the day of the no-confidence vote scheduled for Sunday,” the officials added.

In view of the situation, about 5,000 personnel — 3,000 from the Punjab police and 2,000 from Frontier Constabulary — were requested to maintain law and order in the capital and provide security to lawmakers and sensitive installations in the Red Zone, the officials said, adding that there were chances of physical confrontation on Sunday as the PDM had also asked their members and activists to reach Islamabad.

Intelligence collected from different sources revealed that the dissident members of the PTI were at very high risk, the officers said.

Security has also been strengthened at the Parliament Lodges, around a hotel and a few buildings, including the Sindh House, where lawmakers of opposition parties, PTI dissidents and parliamentarians of former government allies were staying.

Red Zone will be completely sealed on Sunday, except Margalla Road, the officials said, adding that containers would be placed at the entry points of the Red Zone by Saturday midnight.

CM’s leaked audio

Dissident PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan on Friday accused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan of creating an “Afghanistan-like situation”, after he was heard in a leaked audio directing his party rank and file to stage protests and carry photographs of parliamentarians who had switched sides to support the no-confidence motion against PM Khan.

In the leaked audio, the chief minister was heard asking cabinet members and MPAs to take out rallies across the province to show solidarity with the prime minister and against 18 dissident MNAs as well as the US after Friday prayers.

“This is an order from the prime minister and he had called me to tell the ministers and MPAs to take out rallies in their respective constituencies against the MNAs who ditched the party,” the chief minister is heard telling cabinet colleagues and MPAs in a voice message.

“Chant slogans against the traitors (MNAs) who have sold themselves out, find their portraits and also raise slogans against America,” he said, directing them to also celebrate the party’s victory in the second phase of the local government elections.

Following the chief minister’s message, cabinet members and MPAs along with party workers staged demonstrations against the dissident MNAs and burnt American flag and effigy of President Joe Biden.

Protests were also held in various parts of the country against the letter in which PM Khan was threatened.

Talking to Dawn, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan owned the voice message but clarified that his message was for staging peaceful rallies. “Yes, I directed my ministers and party workers to take out peaceful rallies after Friday prayers,” he said.

Meanwhile, MNA from Peshawar Noor Alam Khan accused the chief minister of trying to create a situation similar to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“He is putting our lives at risk,” Noor Alam Khan told Dawn.

“I am seriously contemplating legal action,” he added.

Mohammad Asghar also contributed to the story

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2022

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