In report to IHC, capital police highlight risk of violence during PTI’s long march

Published November 19, 2022
In this file photo, police officers and paramilitary soldiers with riot gear stand near shipping containers used to block the area at the Red Zone, ahead of the planned true freedom march by the Imran Khan to pressure the government to announce new elections, in Islamabad on October 31, 2022.— Reuters
In this file photo, police officers and paramilitary soldiers with riot gear stand near shipping containers used to block the area at the Red Zone, ahead of the planned true freedom march by the Imran Khan to pressure the government to announce new elections, in Islamabad on October 31, 2022.— Reuters

In a report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the capital’s police chief has cited the risk of violence as to why the “traditional deployment” of security personnel, including anti-riot units, for the PTI’s long march has “become inadequate”.

The PTI is marching towards the capital and has sought the authorities’ approval to stage a protest there for early elections and “Haqeeqi Azadi” (true freedom).

Islamabad’s traders had earlier filed a plea against the possible closure of roads due to the march, on which the IHC sought on Monday a report from the capital’s inspector general of police (IGP), Dr Akbar Nasir Khan.

‘High-risk situation’

The November 16 report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said PTI leader Amin Ali Gandapur “has threatened that they (protesters) will gather at Islamabad with arms and persuaded its (PTI) workers to bring their weapons during the long march at Islamabad”.

The report also mentioned that some PTI leaders had extended death threats to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, adding: “Some audios and videos are available on social media in which bringing/gathering of arms/ammunition, (ghulails and dandas — slingshots and clubs) were seen and a PTI leader, namely Nazim Arbab, was found standing in front of a shop selling these items and workers were persuaded to bring these items to the long march in Islamabad.”

Recalling former senator Faisal Vawda and Awami Muslim League president Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had “categorically stated that their march would be ‘khoni march’ (bloody march)”, the report said their statements were proved “correct” when an attempt was made on Imran’s life in Wazirabad.

Moreover, the report stated, Imran admitted in public statements that some of his supporters were armed with pistols and said he feared violence during the May 25 march.

The report alleged PTI workers usually participated in the march on vehicles, motorcycles and cranes and “spread terror amongst the public”.

“These vehicles and motorbikes are used to target and hit unarmed anti-riot police, Punjab Rangers and FC (Frontier Corps) officers present on foot on the streets of ICT.”

The scenario, the report concluded, became “even more risky” when the threats to Imran’s life and those of terrorism received through multiple sources were taken into consideration.

“In this background, the traditional deployment of anti-riot units of Islamabad police and other federal forces becomes inadequate as such it is a high-risk situation where a large number of protesters may carry firearms and other lethal tools to harm the police and civil armed forces deployed for protection and security of people living [in] and visiting Islamabad,” it explained.

In this connection, the report mentioned there was open source information that some of the “protesters were injured/killed by airing by armed guards of the PTI chairman Imran Khan” in Wazirabad.

It highlighted that the armed personnel of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir police had been accompanying the PTI procession and the “risk of any accidental confrontation with the LEAs (law enforcement agencies) in such situations goes high.

“There have been no such examples of confrontation of this level in the country during any political movement where civilian armed units have faced such untenable situation.”

Approval for protest

The report highlighted that following an assassination attempt on Imran in Wazirabad, PTI supporters had launched protests across the country, including Islamabad.

PTI supporters, the report said, blocked the entry and exit points of the capital while police “made efforts to handle the protesters, as well as […] open the roads for the general public”.

PTI leaders led groups to block Islamabad’s entry and exit points, “causing obstruction in the freedom of movement of people, goods, transport and even emergency services” in contravention of Supreme Court orders, the report added.

Referring to PTI leader Ali Nawaz Awan’s petition seeking a no-objection certificate (NOC) for holding a sit-in in Islamabad’s H-9 or G-9 sector, the report stated the Islamabad deputy commissioner had already informed the court that the NOC could be given for T-Chowk and was subject to an “undertaking/ affidavit by the PTI chief to abide by terms and conditions of holding a peaceful protest/march”.

“Organisers of PTI have not provided the said undertaking to hold a peaceful protest, rather there is evidence on record to the contrary.

“So, the NOC has not been granted to the PTI till date,” the report explained.

It further stated that the PTI leadership “does not fulfil the terms and conditions sought by the ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory) as is evident from events of August 2014 and 25/26 May of 2022” — when the party held its two previous long marches.

However, police have now announced that an NOC has been issued, allowing the PTI to hold a protest from Koral Chowk to Rawat.

The report also suggested that the PTI be asked to provide “financial/bank guarantees for the clearance of the venue/environment protection and rectification of any harm/damage done during the gathering and for not abiding by the terms and conditions of undertaking”.

Steps taken by police

The report detailed measures taken by Islamabad police ahead of the long march, including ensuring that no procession or activity by a political party was allowed in the Red Zone, the extension of Red Zone, imposition of Section 144 in the capital and a ban on displaying, carrying or bringing firearms in the Red Zone.

The report further said that Rangers, FC and Sindh police personnel were requisitioned and deployed at important points and unarmed anti-riot units were stationed at different locations to “disperse the illegal mob in case of any retaliation”.

“As a last resort, in order to protect forced armed entry by an unlawfully assembled mob a large number of cargo containers have been placed at the side of entry/exit points of Islamabad to stop the entry of protesters in case of any untoward eventuality,” the report added.

The report said the IGP was ready to provide security for the political activity of any party, provided that human rights were not infringed and an assurance was given that the protest would be peaceful and limited to the designated area.

The IGP and district administration would make arrangements for the lawful rally/procession if assurance was given and there may not be any need for the placement of containers in the capital, the report concluded.

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