ISLAMABAD: Despite the mercury expected to further rise in the next few days, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) hopes it will be able to gather a historic crowd in the capital that will shatter the government’s expectations.

The Islamabad district administration has been apprised of a planned public meeting and sit-in at the Srinagar Highway — formerly known as Kashmir Avenue.

Meanwhile, the PTI has also approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to restrain the government from creating hurdles in the way of its march.

PTI’s Central Secretary General Asad Umar on Monday announced that all arrangements for the ‘Azadi March’ had been finalised and that “history will be made” on May 25 (tomorrow).

Capital authorities informed of sit-in plan; party moves IHC to restrain govt from creating hurdles, arresting leaders

“After an impressive show, Pakis­tan’s decisions will never be made behind closed doors again, neither will ill-gotten money be used nor foreign powers take decisions for the country,” he exclaimed.

Separately, PTI Islamabad General Secretary Shahzad Gul wrote to the deputy commissioner informing him about the party’s public meeting and a sit-in.

“I want to bring this to your kind notice that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has decided to organise a peaceful gathering/sit-in on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 regarding Haqeeqi Azadi March, at Srinagar Highway Islamabad (known as Kashmir Highway), between the H-9 and G-9 area. The former prime minister/Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Mr Imran Khan will lead the Azadi March/sit-in,” the letter stated.

“A large number of public, including women and youth, are expected to participate for which a stage, SMD(s) and other event/festivity equipment are being installed at the venue. Therefore, I request you to please undertake necessary measures in terms of provision of venue, specialised security and others,” Mr Gul stated.

Moreover, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, through a statement, invited the entire nation to attend the march.

“It is a decisive moment for the whole nation as we have to decide whether we want to become an independent nation or repeat the history of 75 years. The last time the nation got united was in 1974 and made a decision. Now, once again the whole nation needs to come out of their houses,” he announced.

He said only PTI chairman Imran Khan was capable of addressing the issues of Pakistan and he should be given a fresh mandate so he could take appropriate decisions. He warned that if the government tried to block roads in Islamabad for those joining the PTI’s long march, the whole country will become Islamabad (a venue for protests).

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, while speaking at a news conference, said the present coalition could not be allowed to govern anymore otherwise Pakistan will suffer an irreversible loss. He alleged that Attock and Jhelum bridges were being blocked, and apprehended 700 workers and leaders of the PTI would be arrested as was senior party leader Shireen Mazari. He also claimed some party workers had already been arrested and the media was being threatened.

Read more: Crackdown belies govt claims of tolerance to PTI march

Mr Chaudhry claimed that while the nation was suffering financial losses, a swimming pool was being constructed at the Prime Minister House.

“The prime minister and Punjab chief minister both are on bail and it is becoming a matter of embarrassment for the whole country,” he remarked.

PTI Islamabad President Ali Nawaz Awan claimed their upcoming long march will be the largest protest drive in the history of Pakistan. “We are struggling to change the fate of the new generation. Imran Khan will be at Srinagar Highway on May 25 at 3pm,” he announced.

PTI Information Secretary Farrukh Habib said if the marchers were stopped from travelling to Islamabad, the government will be responsible for any untoward situation that ensues.

Efforts to get march cancelled

As the PTI gears up for the long march, some senior party figures claimed behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade the party chairman to call off the protest.

“Our only demand to the powerful quarters is that dates must be announced for fresh elections,” a senior party leader said. However, the claim could not be verified independently.

Also, in a rare public appearance in Peshawar, former prime minister Imran Khan along with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and other leaders visited the busy Saddar bazaar apparently to invite people to Islamabad.

The PTI leadership has also arranged heavy machinery to remove any obstacles on its way to the capital. To prepare for the long march, a high-level meeting of the party was convened in Peshawar on Monday, but was put off till Tuesday (today) due to the engagements of KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

Court moved preemptively

Also on Monday, the PTI approached the IHC to res­train the government from creating hurdles in the way of the ‘Azadi March’. The IHC chief justice will hear the petition on Tuesday (today).

The petition was filed by PTI’s additional general secretary Amir Mehmood Kiani, citing the interior secretary, Islamabad inspector general of police, chief commissioner and deputy commissioner as respondents.

The petitioner argues that the PTI leadership has decided to hold a peaceful public march/gathering on May 25 to register its protest for “real freedom”.

“The purpose of this public gathering is to draw attention of the government towards public sentiments,” the petition stated, adding that the respo­ndents are illegally trying to halt the march through arr­ests and torture of PTI members, placing containers to block roads, arrests of families of PTI members and lea­ders and restrict the movement of people.

Meanwhile, the IHC chief justice has constituted a three-member larger bench to hear the petition of sacked Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2022

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