Govt to stop PTI from long march to Islamabad: Rana Sanaullah

Published May 24, 2022
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses a press conference alongside PPP's Qamar Zaman Kaira (L) and JUI-F's Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi (R) on Tuesday. — AFP
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah addresses a press conference alongside PPP's Qamar Zaman Kaira (L) and JUI-F's Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi (R) on Tuesday. — AFP

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah announced on Tuesday that the federal cabinet had decided it would not allow the PTI to hold its planned long march to the capital, which is due to take place on May 25 (tomorrow).

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said the government would not allow the PTI to spread "chaos and disorder" in the guise of the march. "They will be stopped so they cannot propagate their misleading agenda."

"These people (PTI) have moved from abuses to bullets. A police constable was killed in Lahore."

He was referring to Constable Kamal Ahmad who was gunned down last night during a police raid in Lahore's Model Town. Federal ministers and the PTI have traded blame over who was responsible for the killing.

The interior minister claimed that the PTI leadership had gathered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was planning to use the province's resources and personnel to "come and attack the federation".

"They want to come as a mob that has no legal or constitutional status ... this cannot be allowed."

Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan wanted to divide the nation, he added. "Don't be misled by Imran Khan. He directed his party members during rallies to call people from other parties robbers and traitors. This is how he wants to spread chaos and disorder."

Sanaullah said everyone had the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest, however, the PTI did not want a peaceful protest. "Had they not called it a bloody march and talked about spreading anarchy, we would not have stopped them."

He vowed to protect the lives and properties of the capital's people "at all costs" and claimed that the situation would be normalised by 10pm tomorrow.

Sanaullah was flanked by leaders from allied parties, including JUI-F's Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi, PPP's Qamar Zaman Kaira and Jamhoori Watan Party's Shahzain Bugti who affirmed that the decision to stop the long march had been taken through consensus.

Road blockades

The local administration in various cities have put in place measures to prevent the movement of long march participants.

In Rawalpindi, bus stands have been sealed while it has also been decided to seal the Faizabad Interchange. Blockades have also been created on the route from the GT Road, Taxila to Rawalpindi.

Similarly, metro bus service has also been suspended in Islamabad and Rawalpindi on the request of the capital city administration. All petrol stations as well as educational institutions will also remain closed in the twin cities.

Meanwhile, most of the points in Lahore, including Thokar Niaz Beg, Babu Sabu, Shadhra, Ravi old and new bridge have been closed with additional deployment of law enforcement personnel.

'No compromise on state's writ'

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad shortly after, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the government had decided that there would be no compromise on the state's writ.

She assured the people that the government would protect them against those who wanted to spread anarchy.

She lashed out at the PTI for not condemning the killing of Constable Ahmad. She also played visuals from the PTI's 2014 sit-in, saying that it had turned violent even though Imran had promised it would be peaceful.

She questioned why the PTI was holding the long march in the first place when it was responsible for the country's current economic crisis. "If it is for holding early elections, you could have given the call any time before April 11."

Aurangzeb asserted that the long march would be "bloody", adding that intelligence reports suggested the participants of the march would be armed. She said that there would be no compromise when a "bloody march" had been announced, adding that "red lines had been drawn".

She said that the government reserved the right to hold elections. "Do whatever you want, you will not be allowed to spread chaos."

CM 'apologises' for measures to stop march

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz said he wanted to take the province's people into confidence and "apologise" for measures that would be taken to stop the march.

"I ask forgiveness from people. We are doing this with a heavy heart. If we bear one day of hardship then we may be saved from his (Imran's) plan of jamming the whole of Pakistan," he said.

CM Hamza warned that the law and the Constitution would come into action for the protection of the people and lashed out at Imran for allegedly spreading "hate" in society and Constable Ahmad's killing.

Can't give freehand knowing of PTI's 'violent' plans: Maryam

Later in the day, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the "intention" behind the long march was now clear, alleging that the PTI wanted to "creates chaos and spill blood".

In what was at least the fifth press conference of the day by a PML-N leader, she claimed that the government possessed intel about the PTI's "violent plans", including amassing of tear gas shells, guns, sticks as well as designs to attack law enforcement officials.

"They're openly saying there will be blood so how can you expect the government to give them a free hand? It (the government) has the responsibility of the people. How can we allow you to hurt Pakistan?"

She also rubbished the idea that the long march was being waged against the government. Instead, she claimed the PTI's real target was "the establishment".

Maryam said that following her discussions with the prime minister and interior minister, it was decided to "let Imran come", instead of arresting him, to see how long he stays in Islamabad and how much mettle he had.

The PML-N vice president also addressed the courts and asked them to not set a tradition where a person abusing the institutions the most gets favourable decisions. "Decide in the people's future and favour and don't look at media or social media [when giving verdicts]," she advised the judiciary.

Prior to the start of the press conference, Maryam ordered that ARY News' microphone be removed from in front of her.

"I respect the ARY representatives sitting here and I have no problem with them but I'm not ready to talk to a channel which is on an agenda to build a narrative against institutions and is supporting Imran Khan to spread instability in the country because it has taken favours worth Rs40 billion from him," Maryam alleged.

Section 144

Meanwhile, the federal government as well as the governments of Sindh and Punjab decided to impose a ban on gatherings under Section 144 (power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Islamabad

In an order issued earlier today, Islamabad Capital Territory Additional District Magistrate Rana Mohammad Waqas Anwar stated that certain segments of the society were planning demonstrations and processions in the city which could "disrupt public peace, tranquility and maintenance of law and order situation".

The order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said that the gatherings could pose a "threat to public property, and may lead to a riot or an affray including sectarian riot within the revenue/territorial limits of district Islamabad".

Subsequently, all kinds of gatherings of five or more persons, processions and rallies and demonstrations at any public place within the Revenue Limits of District Islamabad were prohibited for two months, it added.

Punjab

Meanwhile, the Punjab government stated in a notification that assemblies, rallies, gatherings and sit-ins could serve as a "soft target" for terrorist attacks.

"In view of the recent terrorist incidents across Pakistan, prevailing threat perception, specific threat warning, attacks on law enforcement personnel, threats to rule of law, likely damage to public and private property, public peace and order must be maintained at all costs," it stated.

The notification added that there were sufficient grounds to impose Section 144, adding that gatherings of five or more than five people except law enforcement officials and carrying and displaying of all kinds of weapons, including licensed ones, were prohibited for a period of seven days.

Sindh

Separately, a notification issued by the Sindh Home Department stated that the province's inspector general of police had informed authorities that some political and disgruntled elements were planning to trigger the acts of "unlawful assembly" with the intent to "block roads, highways and organisation of sit-ins".

"It has also been pointed out that these will further provide an opportunity to anti-social and anti-state elements trying to take any advantage through exploiting the prevalent politico-economic situation.

"Therefore, the Sindh government, in exercise of power under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, does hereby impose ban on assemblage/gatherings of five or more people, staging of demonstrations and rallies across the province for a period of 30 days with immediate effect."

It added that the station house officers of concerned police stations were authorised to register complaints under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code if the order was violated.

A PTI supporter waves flags beside containers stacked by the authorities to block the Red Zone ahead of the sit-in planned in Islamabad, on Tuesday. — AFP
A PTI supporter waves flags beside containers stacked by the authorities to block the Red Zone ahead of the sit-in planned in Islamabad, on Tuesday. — AFP

Islamabad likely to be cut off

The federal capital is likely to be cut off from the rest of the country on May 25, no matter who controls its entry and exit points — government or PTI.

Officers of the capital police earlier told Dawn that two plans had been made under the direction of the government: either to allow the PTI marchers to enter the capital or intercept them at the entry points.

According to Plan 'B' which was to be executed if the government did not allow PTI to enter the capital, all entry points will be sealed and the marchers will be intercepted on Attock and Jhelum bridges.

Besides, the motorways and G.T. Road will be blocked and PTI's local leaders, hardcore activists and workers will be arrested.

In this regard, a list has been prepared containing over 400 local leaders, activists and workers, the officers said. Their arrest will begin whenever directives are issued by the government.

Moreover, places have been identified where PTI and its student wing activists are hiding after reaching the capital from other parts of the country.

Containers were brought back to the capital to seal the Red Zone and entry points of the city, the officers said.

So far, 500 containers have been given to the police and 300 were required to seal the Red Zone which has already been started and were scheduled to be completed by Monday midnight or Tuesday morning.

The lone entry point to the Red Zone on Margalla Road will remain open but a contingent of police and paramilitary troops will be deployed there.

In another move, all kinds of leaves except emergency have been cancelled for the capital police, the officers said.

Meanwhile, the capital police have requested a contingent of 8,000 Punjab Constabulary personnel along with 2,000 Anti-Riot Unit officials from Punjab, 2,000 officials from Sindh and 4,000 Rangers personnel.

Besides, police contingents from Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir have also been sought.

Moreover, the capital police also sought dozens of prisoner vans and water cannon vehicles from their counterparts in other provinces.

The capital police have 20,000 long and short range teargas shells while thousands of rubber bullets have been sought.

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