Govt says Imran 'has run away after spreading chaos' as protesters begin dispersing from D-Chowk

Published May 26, 2022
PM Shehbaz Sharif shakes hands with law enforcement a day at D-Chowk on Thursday. —Abubaker Umer/Twitter
PM Shehbaz Sharif shakes hands with law enforcement a day at D-Chowk on Thursday. —Abubaker Umer/Twitter

Government ministers and mouthpieces on Thursday claimed that former prime minister Imran Khan had "run away after spreading chaos" in the country as PTI protesters at Islamabad's D-Chowk began dispersing after he gave the government a six-day deadline to call elections, failing which he would "return" to the capital.

In a tweet today, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said "Imran Khan ran away after spreading chaos in the country."

He said that the government had fulfilled its responsibility to stop the unrest and was now looking upon the state's most important "pillar" for justice. He was referring to the government's petition in the Supreme Court seeking contempt proceedings against Imran Khan for "violating" court orders with regard to the Azadi March.

"The nation is watching [to see] how saboteurs and their masterminds who take undue advantage of court orders are treated. I have heard that justice is blind."

Protesters begin to disperse

After Imran's speech, Dawn.com spoke to police officials who said he departed after he gave the government a six-day deadline to call elections failing which he would return to the capital with the protesters. Dawn.com was also able to confirm that the protesters have started dispersing from D-Chowk.

Main roads in the capital such as the Srinagar Highway and Blue area have also been reopened as containers were removed.

A PTI supporter, who was present at the site, told Dawn.com that he was "caught by surprise" when Imran Khan "decided to conclude the march".

Another supporter who was at D-Chowk and declined to be named told Dawn.com that he was not disappointed and would return at a moment's notice if their leader called them back. He also said he had brought food supplies for 10 days in case the sit-in lasted that long.

Deadline

Imran and his caravan reached Islamabad late Wednesday night and broke through the barriers and braved police shelling to enter the Red Zone. They subsequently dispersed from the area after negotiations with the police.

A little before 8am, the PTI chief addressed his supporters and said that he had decided that he would sit at the D-Chowk until the government dissolved assemblies and announced elections.

"But of what I have seen in the past 24 hours, they (govt) are taking the nation towards anarchy," he stated, claiming that the government was trying to create a divide between the nation and police. Imran added that the government would be happy if he staged a sit-in in Islamabad as it would lead to clashes between the people and police and the army.

Imran 'defeated'

Following Imran's speech, Punjab government spokesperson Attaullah Tarar said that the "defeated Imran Khan's frustrated face and quivering voice had revealed everything".

He asserted that the date of elections would be decided by the government, along with its coalition partners and suggested to the former prime minister to exit politics. "Imran Khan has pushed the PTI to a dead end. He has fallen into the pit he dug for others.

"Imran's politics have faded into the past," Tarar added.

He also promised that the government would register cases against the vandals and arsonists at various places. "The arrests will happen. Cases will also be registered against people who attacked police officers in Gilgit-Baltistan."

PM Shehbaz thanks law enforcement

Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stepped out to greet law enforcement personnel who were serving at Islamabad's D-Chowk, which was to be ground-zero for Imran's sit-in.

Sharif's focal person on digital media, Abubaker Umer, tweeted photographs of the premier shaking hands and thanking them for shedding their "blood and sweat for this country".

According to state-run APP PM Shehbaz said Pakistan's progress was linked with the supremacy of the Constitution and ensuring the rule of law.

PM Shehbaz lauded the personnel of Rangers, Islamabad Police, and the capital’s Traffic Police for rendering their duties professionally and protecting the lives and property of the people. The prime minister appreciated the dedication of the law enforcement personnel in performing their duties "regardless of their political affiliation".

He praised Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif for "dealing with the challenge effectively".

'Misled' the Supreme Court

Separately, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, in a statement on Thursday, said that the PTI chairman "misled" the Supreme Court by "promising" to hold the sit-in at the court-designated place in H-9. "But he broke his promise by announcing to go to D-Chowk.

"Metro bus stations were set on fire, trees were set on fire and the nation saw it all," he went on. "Hiding behind the apex court's decision, the mob continued to create unrest all night. All night, Imran sat on the container and defied the Supreme Court's order."

The minister also clarified that the police never fired a rubber bullet at the protesters and dismissed such complaints as "propaganda". "Eighteen Rangers and police officers were injured," he said, lauding the security personnel for protecting the lives of the public by firing tear gas at the rioters.

Sanaullah demanded that the top court should give "clear orders" now to ensure the "writ of the state" and protect the Constitution so that the protesters could be expelled from Islamabad and the safety of the residents could be restored.

However, the PTI insists that disproportionate force was used against them, and Imran claimed today that at least five people had died in clashes. On Thursday morning PTI leader Omar Ayub tweeted that he was en route to Islamabad after facing police at the Burhan Bridge, where he was attacked with batons.

Last night, while Imran's convoy, which began the journey from Swabi's Wali Interchange, was en route to D-Chowk via the Srinagar Highway, a batch of his party workers and supporters were already present at the planned destination in the face of intense police shelling.

According to Islamabad police, eight personnel of police and seven of Rangers had been injured as protesters hurled stones.

When PTI's Azadi March had begun, tensions in Punjab, too, had risen after police made use of tear gas and arrested several PTI marchers in cities across the province as activists attempted to remove shipping containers blocking routes to Islamabad.

Govt approaches SC

Meanwhile, the government, earlier today, approached the Supreme Court seeking contempt proceedings against PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan for "violating" the apex court's orders with regard to the party's Azadi March.

A five-member bench is hearing the petition which was filed by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf.

The same bench will also resume hearing a petition filed by Islamabad High Court Bar Association president Muhammad Shoaib Shaheen that sought removal of blockades set up to stop the PTI's Azadi March.

On Wednesday, the apex court had ordered the federal government and the PTI to constitute respective negotiating committees and meet at 10pm on Wednesday to finalise modalities for a peaceful and safe conduct of the party's long march to the capital.

However, negotiations were not held as both sides claimed the other had not shown up.

The SC's order had come on Shaheen's petition which was heard by a three-judge bench consisting of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.

The authorities were also told to release the PTI workers and supporters arrested in the last 48 hours but not involved or accused in any heinous crime. The court also restrained the authorities from midnight raids at residences, offices and private properties for rounding up PTI workers till further orders.

The authorities were also told to release the PTI workers and supporters arrested in the last 48 hours but not involved or accused in any heinous crime. The court also restrained the authorities from midnight raids at residences, offices and private properties for rounding up PTI workers till further orders.

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