• Sana says protest aimed at dividing nation, creating anarchy and unrest
• Marriyum claims intel reports indicate PTI marchers will be carrying weapons
• Maryam says Imran won’t be arrested

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday decided to stop Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) long march from entering the federal capital by all means, as former prime minister Imran Khan vowed to put up a ‘historic’ power show in Islamabad today (Wednesday) to push the month-old Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regime to resign and announce early general elections.

The decision to thwart the long march was taken in the federal cabinet’s meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday.

Later, in separate post-cabinet meeting press conferences, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb elaborated the decisions taken at the meeting regarding the PTI’s planned long march and sit-in in the capital.

“Keeping in view the destruction caused by the PTI in its 2014 dharna (sit-in that lasted for 126 days), the federal cabinet has decided not to allow them (PTI leaders) to create unrest and anarchy in the name of democracy and long march, and therefore they will be stopped,” said Mr Sanaullah in a joint press conference with leaders of allied parties in the ruling coalition.

“They (PTI leaders) will not be allowed… to promote their agenda of dividing the nation,” he added.

The minister said the PTI had resorted from gaali (abuses) to goli (bullet). He said this in the context of the killing of a police constable in Lahore on Tuesday during a raid at the house of a PTI local leader.

He further said the federal capital would be kept free of “any miscreants” who tried to disrupt routine life, as the protection of life and property was the prime responsibility of the government. The interior minister said he had heard that the main leadership of the PTI had gathered in Peshawar and wanted to storm the capital with mobs using the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s resources.

“I caution people not to be trapped by Imrani fitna (chaos) as he is bent upon dividing the nation,” the interior minister said, adding: “This is the problem of the whole nation and all institutions, political parties and the media should play their role.”

Minister for Communications Maulana Asad Mahmood, Minister for Narcotics Control Shahzain Bugti, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri and Minister for Science and Technology Agha Hassan Baloch were also present on the occasion.

Rana Sana said: “This is not a democratic march; it is aimed at dividing the nation and creating anarchy and unrest in the country. Hence, it should be nipped in the bud. This group [PTI leaders] has been talking about a bloody march and creating chaos across the country, and all this is on record. They have also said that through this long march they will oust the government.”

The interior minister stressed Prime Minister Sharif was elected through a constitutional process, but Imran Khan wanted to disrupt the democratic system by using different tactics. When the PTI chief failed to build a false narrative, he called for a long march on Islamabad to create chaos and anarchy, he claimed.

Rana Sana warned Mr Khan against creating a law and order situation in the capital. “Law will take its due course if the march goes violent,” he said in response to a question.

Maulana Asad said Imran Khan wanted to give a message to the world that there was uncertainty in the country, adding he would not be allowed to create chaos. Pakistan was facing economic and political issues, and the government was taking prudent steps to steer it out of the current crisis, he added.

Agha Hassan held the PTI government responsible for the current economic and political turmoil in the country. The coalition government wanted to resolve all the issues faced by the country, but unfortunately the PTI was bent upon harming national interest and damaging democracy.

Shahzain Bugti maintained that all the allies of the PML-N government were on the same page and it would complete its constitutional term.

Carrying weapons

Later, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Imran Khan was marching on Islamabad for what she called a “bloody and violent” protest, and thus will not be allowed to enter the city.

The minister called Mr Khan an “unstable” man who could not be allowed to create chaos in the capital. She claimed there were intelligence reports that PTI marchers will be carrying weapons with them. “Therefore, we have decided to stop them by all means,” she added.

On the other hand, the Islamabad local administration imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the federal capital for two months, and virtually sealed the already-secure Red Zone -- an area that houses the Parliament House, the Presidency, PM House, Supreme Court, diplomatic enclave and other important installations.

‘Let him come to Islamabad’

Meanwhile, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz does not want her party’s coalition government to arrest ousted premier Imran Khan, and has also withdrawn her demand of early elections.

“I will ask (prime minister) Shehbaz Sharif and (interior minister) Rana Sanaullah not to arrest Imran Khan… let him come to Islamabad and hold a sit-in. We’ll see how long he can sit there,” Ms Nawaz told a presser in Lahore here on Tuesday.

She also withdrew her earlier demand of calling fresh elections, saying: “Now the coalition government will complete its term (till August 2023).”

The PML-N leader also removed the microphone of ARY News, claiming the channel was following the agenda of the PTI chairman to create anarchy in the country.

She asserted Imran was holding the long march not against any political party, but the establishment. She also chided Mr Khan for ‘using the children of the nation’ to achieve his nefarious designs. “Imran wants the children of the nation to suffer from the harsh weather while his own sons are enjoying the cool breeze in London. I ask him to call his children back to lead the protest,” she remarked, and added Khan should ask his children to renounce their British nationality and acquire the green passport. She also held Khan responsible for the death of a police constable in Lahore allegedly at the hands of PTI workers.

Ms Nawaz justified the crackdown on PTI activists and said no one could be allowed to disrupt law and order. She said Khan had attacked PTV and Parliament House during his 2014 sit-in.

She also asked the judiciary not to check social media and take decisions for the public. She also took exception to Imran’s statement regarding the military chief, saying, “When Imran was prime minister, no one was better than the chief (of army staff). Then he said only an animal can be neutral, and now he is asking the army to stay neutral.”

Zulqernain Tahir and Kalbe Ali also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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