• In NA, minister and PTI dissidents lash out at Imran for ‘causing anarchy’
• PM says political party refused to ‘shelve protest’
ISLAMABAD: While the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership was marching on the capital on Wednesday from various parts of the country, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah termed the party’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’ a flop show, claiming only a few thousand individuals turned up against the claims of two million.
Addressing a press conference here alongside Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Mr Sanaullah said the government would not have made preparations on such a large scale had it known there would be a “lukewarm” response. He claimed only people from KP attended the march.
Talking about the situation in Punjab, the minister said there was complete peace. “Only a few thousand people are a part of the march and they possess weapons and teargas. They are trying to take over the federal capital using KP government protocol,” he claimed.
The minister said the Imran Khan-led party was seeking the release of its arrested members, adding that out of the 1,700 people arrested, 240 had been freed after signing an affidavit. However, some were detained under Section 3 of MPO ordinance, adding no arrests were made in Balochistan and Sindh.
“The seizure of heavy arms and ammunition from the houses of PTI officials (in Lahore) is evidence of a bloody march,” the interior minister said in a statement later.
The long march also came up in the National Assembly when, speaking on points of order, federal minister Javed Latif and a couple of PTI dissidents lashed out at former prime minister Imran Khan for allegedly causing anarchy in the country through the march. The lawmakers also questioned its timing as it coincided with talks with the IMF in Doha and the conviction of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik by an Indian court.
Some of the lawmakers suggested the government arrest Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid to end the crisis.
Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance expressed concern over the situation and called for political engagement between the government and the PTI.
Taking the floor, Mr Latif ridiculed the announcement made by Mr Khan that he would gather three million people in Islamabad, and claimed that not more than 3,000 people were part of the rally that started from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The minister, who is yet to be allotted a portfolio, alleged the PTI chairman was using the resources of the KP government for the march and had, in fact, “invaded” the federation.
“It seems he wants to get azadi (freedom) from the federation,” said the minister in a reference to the title of the ‘Azadi March’. Without naming the establishment, he said Mr Khan first wanted the “neutrals” to support him, then asked them to stay neutral and then called them “animals”.
PTI dissidents Ahmed Hussain Deharr and Javaria Zafar blamed the previous government of their own party for the present state of economy.
Mr Deharr blasted Mr Khan for attacking the army and state institutions in his speeches whereas Ms Zafar called for investigations into the funds being provided to the PTI for the long march.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, without naming the PTI, said a political party was requested to shelve its protest for at least three days, but it refused.
“The political party has been requested to suspend its sit-in for three days but it remains adamant,” the prime minister said while addressing engineers and workers at the under-construction Karot hydropower project. He urged the people to reject the politics of sit-ins that had inflicted huge economic losses to the national economy in the past.
PM Sharif said the Karot power project — part of the CPEC — would have been completed a year ago to contribute 720 megawatts to the national grid had the Chinese president visited the country in 2014. He said after completion of the project, electricity price would reduce to Rs3 per unit gradually, after the retirement of the debt.
Earlier, PM Sharif urged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan to manage the law and order situation in the province.
The same day, Mr Sharif also met a delegation of Balochistan National Party senior leaders, and said the government, along with its allies, would work with dedication and commitment to implement its agenda of public welfare.
Syed Irfan Raza also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022