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Islamabad braces itself for Qadri’s march

January 09, 2013

Worker lifting containers. — INP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Although the capital administration and police have started acquiring containers to seal the red zone on Jan 14, they are in a quandary over whether to let Dr Tahirul Qadri’s march proceed to the city or counter it in the absence of a clear directive from the government.

Sources said the administration was waiting for the interior ministry’s advice about ways of handling the march, but there was a complete silence.

The administration and police expect a large number of people to turn up and feel that there is need to make proper arrangement so that residents are not inconvenienced, chalk out plans for blocking roads and diverting traffic and, if necessary, declare a holiday in the city. The deployment of police and personnel of other departments is yet to be finalised.

A senior police officer told Dawn on Tuesday that Punjab and Kashmir police had been requested to keep 5,000 and 3000 personnel, respectively, on standby and send them immediately when asked for. Rangers have been requested for 5,000 personnel.

The officer said Punjab and Kashmir police had been asked to arrange 10 armed personnel carriers, 1,000 rings of barbed wire, long- and short-range teargas shells, guns and rubber bullets. He said the capital police were arranging 40 containers to seal the Grand Trunk Road and Motorway if the government denied permission to the long march.

He said Interior Minister Rehman Malik was likely to convene a meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to allow the march or counter it.

All entry points from Margalla, Ataturk and Suharwardi roads would have to be sealed by containers if the government decided to block the march, another police officer said, adding that the containers had been placed on the roadside as a precautionary measure.

CONFISCATION: Over 25 containers were confiscated by police from GT Road on Tuesday and taken to different areas in Islamabad.

Dil Afser Khan, owner of the Lahore-Hazara Goods Transport Company, said Tarnol police had confiscated their containers.

“Police have confiscated three containers of my company. But after a request and payment of some money, two containers loaded with goods were released,” he said.

Senior Superintendent of Police Yaseen Farooq did not receive calls despite repeated attempts.

SHO of Tarnol police station Fazalur Rehman confirmed the confiscation of containers, but did not say who had ordered them to do so.

The capital police had confiscated 17 private containers to block the red zone during a protest against an anti-Islam film in September last year and the containers were not returned to the owners even after a fortnight. In a report sent to the inspector general, the special branch of capital police said the strength of police was inadequate to tackle a large number of marchers and called for seeking help from police of other provinces. The report said the Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran had assigned the task of bringing people to the march to its office-bearers in the capital.

Sources said officers of the administration and police were of the opinion that the government should not allow the march.

In a letter to the interior secretary, the administration called for seeking necessary manpower and logistics from other provinces to maintain law and order and avert any untoward incident. It has also sought permission for making arrangements and facilitating the marchers in case the government intends to allow the march and sit-in.

The letter written on Jan 5 by Islamabad Chief Commissioner Tariq Mehmood Pirzada said there were reports that Dr Tahirul Qadri also planned to hold a sit-in outside the Parliament House till the acceptance of his demands.

The interior secretary was informed that officers of the capital administration and police said at a meeting that the government should not allow the march because Islamabad was a city of diplomats. Any rally held in the city will inconvenience the diplomatic community.

Besides, Islamabad is a city of 0.831 million people and a gathering of one or two million would adversely affect its civic life.

“The weather is extremely cold and serious health-related issues can arise.

Health institutions are not in a position to cater for the medical requirement of a huge crowd,” the letter said, adding that the TMQ rally might also attract terrorists who had already placed Dr Tahirul Qadri on their hit list. MEETING WITH TMQ: Meanwhile, a meeting was held between the capital administration and a delegation of the TMQ. It was attended by the interior secretary, chief commissioner, IG and director general of the National Crisis Management Cell.

The TMQ delegation sought permission for a sit-in in the Parade Ground and parking facility in F-9 Park.

IGP Bani Amin Khan said the Parade Ground could not accommodate four million people and suggested that the sit-in should be held in a segregated place like F-9 Park which could be cordoned off effectively by law-enforcement agencies. The interior secretary said that because of severe cold weather the marchers would wear warm cloths and it would be difficult for security personnel to carry out adequate body search. He suggested that the march should be postponed to mid-February. The TMQ delegation assured the meeting that matchers would remain peaceful and would not go to parliament or Diplomatic Enclave.