Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday warned the PTI against announcing another long march, giving a strong indication that its workers and supporters will not be allowed to enter Islamabad again.
In a tweet, hours after a cabinet meeting, he said that in case the PTI were to embark on another march, "I’ll see how they cross the barriers this time."
Sanaullah's warning came after the PTI staged its "Haqeeqi Azadi March" last week when its supporters dislodged containers placed to impede their advances and braved tear-gas shelling to somehow reach the D-Chowk in the capital, only to see party chairman Imran Khan call off plans to convert the march into a sit-in.
The PTI lashed out at the interior minister's message, saying he was "threatening peaceful protesters". It said the nation would always exhibit its bravery and would not be stopped by "slaves".
Earlier in the day while addressing a press conference in Islamabad after the cabinet meeting, the interior minister came down hard on the PTI. State resources were used to further the political agenda of Imran Khan, he alleged, adding that armed police officials from KP were illegally added to the army of the "criminal gang".
He went on to say that in order to further the "criminal political agenda", polarise the nation and mislead the youth, this armed gang attacked the centre and headed towards Islamabad.
"When they were stopped at Attock, Mianwali and within Islamabad city limits, they opened fire at police officials," he said, adding that the protesters also removed obstacles placed to deter them.
The minister went on to say that the party misled the Supreme Court and obtained a favourable order, which allowed them to stage a protest at Islamabad's H-9 park.
"[The order] was implemented and we made arrangement for them to stage the protest but then that was not their objective. Their objective was not to carry out any political activity. Their objective was to enter Islamabad and spread chaos and anarchy. Their objective was to seize the capital city and make the government dysfunctional," he said.
He alleged that all the protesters that gathered at D-Chowk belonged to "the same province" and had arrived in Islamabad a day before.
"We have marked all the buildings and hotels [where they stayed], we are noting in our report the details of where these people came from and where they stayed," he said, adding that some also stayed at Parliament Lodges and KP House.
Sana claimed that police had only used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters, asserting that they did not fire a single shot.
The minister said that he had proposed to the federal cabinet that permission be given for cases against PTI leaders.
He said the federal government would have to grant permission for this as it was the competent authority, adding that the cabinet had proposed a sub-committee to analyse the facts.
"If my stance has any weight, then the committee will inform the cabinet of its decision," he said, reiterating that there was evidence to support the PTI's true intentions. "I am hopeful that the case will be registered and this group will be prosecuted."
Committee to deal with anti-state activities
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday constituted a five-member committee to chalk out a plan of action to deal with anti-state activities as the federal cabinet expressed concerns over recent statements by PTI leaders regarding the party's Azadi March.
Sanaullah and Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira are among the members of the committee.
During the meeting, the cabinet expressed grave concerns over the recent statement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan. A day earlier, Khan had said that he would use the full force of KP when PTI chief Imran Khan gives the next call for protest.
The meeting also took notice of Imran’s remarks in the buildup to his party's recent march as well as his admission that some of the protestors were armed.
Future anti-state marches to be dealt with 'iron hand'
The federal cabinet was assured that any anti-state long march in the future would be dealt with an iron hand. The interior minister also informed the meeting's participants that the PTI's Azadi March was an "anti-state conspiracy" and not a political activity.
He alleged that it was an "armed attack on the state" under the guise of political activity, and claimed that no law enforcement official was carrying a weapon at the site of the march.
PM Shehbaz said that he had also directed the interior ministry and law enforcement agencies to not carry weapons at the march venue.
The cabinet felicitated the nation on "rejecting" Imran's Azadi March and lauded law enforcement agencies for "performing their duties efficiently".
During the meeting, it was highlighted that the PTI utilised the resources of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government by assembling armed groups at KP House a day before the march, while the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister attacked police personnel.