Islamabad ‘fortified’ as Imran reveals march plans

Published September 22, 2022
<p>ISLAMABAD: The entrance to the Red Zone is blocked with containers, short of D-Chowk, ostensibly to counter a protest planned by farmers, on Wednesday. After Imran Khan’s announcement that he would launch an anti-govt push from Saturday, it is likely the blockades will remain in place until the weekend.—Mohammad Asim</p>

ISLAMABAD: The entrance to the Red Zone is blocked with containers, short of D-Chowk, ostensibly to counter a protest planned by farmers, on Wednesday. After Imran Khan’s announcement that he would launch an anti-govt push from Saturday, it is likely the blockades will remain in place until the weekend.—Mohammad Asim

• Rana Sana threatens governor’s rule in Punjab and KP, warns of action if marchers attempt to reach D-Chowk
• ‘Army of lions led by a jackal will always lose’: Imran takes a dig at Nawaz-Shehbaz consultation

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan finally announced the launching of a fresh movement from Saturday to press the government to announce snap polls, the interior minister threatened with the imposition of governor’s rule in the provinces supporting the PTI’s long march on the capital and warned of “strong action” against the marchers attempting to reach D-Chowk.

Moreover, in what appeared to be a pre-emptive measure following the former premier’s recent ‘warning’ of calling a countrywide protest if the government didn’t announce snap polls in two weeks, the Islamabad Police had late on Tuesday beefed up security at the entry and exit points of the capital’s Red Zone, though the police claimed in a tweet the security had been bolstered as “some people” from Punjab were headed towards Islamabad to have their political demands accepted.

Addressing a thinly attended lawyers convention, jointly hosted by Insaf Lawyers’ Forum and Punjab Bar Council outside the Supreme Court Lahore registry on Wednesday, Mr Khan appealed to the community to join his movement for ‘real freedom’ for the country.

Talking about the country’s economic situation, he claimed the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) foresaw a Sri Lanka-like turmoil for Pakistan. With the economy shrinking along with an increase in unemployment and inflation skyrocketing, the country was moving towards social unrest, he believed.

Sharing his recipe for pulling Pakistan out of the economic ‘turmoil’, the PTI chief said the country would not need the IMF money if only half of the overseas Pakistanis invested here.

He also alluded to the alleged threats his party members were receiving through calls from unknown numbers, saying he never saw such a thing in the west. He also berated law enforcement agencies for allegedly torturing his chief of staff Shahbaz Gill, and condemned the government for, what he called, victimising “credible” journalists and news channels.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s meeting with his brother Nawaz in London and reportedly discussing the army chief’s appointment, Mr Khan questioned “would these people take decisions about the most important position of national security? An army of lions will lose if led by a jackal, but an army of jackals will win if led by a lion”.

Reiterating his earlier instructions to his followers, the PTI chief asked them to respond in the same coin if they received threats from any unknown number.

A leader of the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) that had boycotted the convention told Dawn that the LBA cabinet was annoyed with Barrister Hassaan Niazi, a nephew of the PTI chief, and wanted to host the event itself. He claimed the majority of lawyers believed Advocate Niazi had been encroaching upon the role of the elected leadership of the legal community by just being a nephew of the former prime minister.

‘Strong action’

Meanwhile, talking to reporters after addressing a seminar on human trafficking in Islamabad, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah threatened with imposition of the governor’s rule in the provinces that supported the PTI’s possible long march on the capital.

In response to a question about road closures in Islamabad, he claimed D-Chowk was blocked due to a farmers’ protest, which could be provided some other appropriate place.

He further warned of “strong action” against participants of the PTI long march if they attempted to reach D-Chowk. “The protesters can assemble at F-9 Park or some other place as per the apex court guidelines in this regard,” he maintained.

Regarding the law and order situation in the capital, the minister said no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands.

Earlier, speaking at the seminar, the minister said the government had a strong political will and commitment to move forward against the trafficking of people.

“The FIA has already developed a National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (2021-25) that aims to promote the detection of trafficking and smuggling of migrants, improve the position of victims and intensify the enforcement of criminal liability,” he said.

Red Zone security

On the other hand, the federal government tightened security around the Red Zone in Islamabad by placing containers. The capital police have also sought additional police from provinces and paramilitary forces, apparently to ward off the PTI’s expected protest, as per sources.

On Tuesday night, the police had said security at entry and exit points of the Red Zone areas had been beefed up to contain any possible law and order situation in light of a political rally “headed towards Islamabad from Punjab”.

In a tweet, it explained that the security was bolstered as “some people from Punjab” were headed towards Islamabad to have their political demands accepted.

Some sources suggested that this was a reference to the farmers’ protest, who had announced plans to breach D-Chowk and hold a sit-in there. However, following successful negotiations with the authorities on Wednesday night, they called off their protest plans.

It is worth noting that PTI chief Imran Khan is also set to be indicted today (Thursday) on a charge of contempt of court for passing controversial remarks against Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022

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