• Minister says govt has information that PTI plans to create anarchic situation outside ECP
• Demonstrators free to hold protest at F-9 park or Parade Ground

ISLAMABAD: Fearing that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) ‘miscreants’ may attack the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday (today) during protests outside its offices announced by party chief Imran Khan, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah declared on Wednesday the government would not allow any protester to enter the Red Zone.

Speaking at a press conference with Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Mr Sanaullah claimed the government had received information that the PTI plans to create an anarchic situation outside the ECP, warning of stern action in case of any violence or attempt to cross the red line.

“The PTI wants to spread chaos in the name of protest,” the minister said, claiming the coalition government has “received reports” and learned about statements of PTI chief Mr Khan and senior leader Fawad Chaudhry regarding their plans of creating an anarchic situation.

The warning came a day ahead of the PTI’s planned protests outside the ECP offices in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar announced by PTI senior leader Asad Umer in a tweet.

A day before the ECP’s announcement of its reserved judgement in the PTI prohibited funding case, party chairman Imran Khan had also called on his supporters to rally outside the electoral body’s headquarters to demand Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja’s resignation.

The interior minister said the demonstrators were free to hold a protest at the nearby F-9 park or the Parade Ground, where he assured them they will be fully facilitated. “Staging a peaceful protest is the right of every political party,” he remarked. He further said the PTI had announced a protest soon after going through the ECP judgement.

Referring to the party’s ‘Azadi March’ back in May, Mr Sanaullah alleged it had brought along armed activists and ministers in the protest. “If this time they undertake any adventure, they will be tackled with force,” he warned.

He said the ECP’s verdict had proved that Imran Khan was a “foreign agent” and PTI a “foreign-aided political party”.

“He took money to pollute Pakistan’s politics and infused it with hatred,” he alleged, adding the ECP verdict had identified some criminal activities by the PTI, including money laundering, fake accounts and forgery. “The ECP has drawn conclusions on the basis of concrete material evidence.”

The minister said the federal cabinet will take important decisions on Thursday (today), including considering whether to declare PTI a foreign-aided party and filing a reference against it with the Supreme Court, while the Federal Investigation Agency will proceed on the criminal side. He ruled out proceeding against four PTI paid employees who received party funds in their personal accounts, saying these poor people had only been used.

Answering a question, the PML-N leader said under the law, any political party that received funds from a foreign government, company or individual was a foreign-aided party.

Asked if Imran Khan’s name was being placed on the Exit Control List, he said nothing would be rushed through and requisite time would be taken to decide. He also said PTI leaders tried to “build a narrative” that the ECP decision was in their favour.

“Fawad Chaudhry is trying to manoeuvre a point that there is no mention of foreign funds. But the verdict shows that [PTI] is foreign-aided. Now there is no room for them to get out of this.”

The minister added the government would fulfil its legal responsibilities and not on the basis of personal grudges. However, the PML-N remained a victim of witch-hunt throughout the PTI’s days in power, he commented.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2022

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