Sit-in at Red Zone in Islamabad lacks definitive purpose: Imran

Announces police reform legislation will be passed in two weeks; reiterates demand for Rangers in K-P

Imran Khan at the foundation stone-laying ceremony in Abbottabad. PHOTO: ONLINE


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan said the sit-in held by religious parties at D-Chowk within the Islamabad Red Zone lacks a definitive purpose, unlike the Azadi March organised by his party in 2014.

He was speaking to journalists after attending the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Government Girls Comprehensive Primary School in Abbottabad on Tuesday.

Protest inside red zone turns into a sit-in

“[During the Azadi March held between August and December 2014], we had a clear-cut objective,” he said. “We were trying to raise a voice against massive rigging in the 2013 general elections by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.”

He added, “Our workers did not damage public property while we were protesting. However, those who are protesting at the same venue have inflicted colossal damages to the nation’s property.” According to Imran, the government should take an initiative to protect state property at all costs.

Thousands of protesters, who supported the convicted killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, forced their way into the Red Zone on Sunday and laid siege to important installations. Mumtaz Qadri was hanged on February 29, triggering a strong reaction from religious parties.

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Sans political interference

The PTI chief said the provincial government was going to ensure legislation on police reforms would be passed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly within the next two weeks. According to Imran, the legislation will help fulfil PTI’s promise to rid the police of political influence.

“This law will be the first of its kind in the history of Pakistan,” he said. “After it is passed, no political leader will be able to influence the police.”

Imran said ensuring peace and stability was the top priority of K-P’s police force. He announced the provincial government decided to deploy Rangers at its borders to ensure security. The federal government has been asked to deploy Rangers as soon as possible.

Imran added the village council, which is the lowest-tier of the local government system, enjoys considerable powers. “This proves PTI believes in devolution of power rather than [concentrating] it in the hands of a few.”

Back to school

Earlier, Imran laid the foundation for 20 rooms of Government Girls Comprehensive Primary School and inaugurated two of its completed rooms.

“The K-P government has allocated Rs8 billion for the reconstruction of 760 schools,” he said. “These schools are in the non-strategy category in the lists of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and Provincial Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (PERRA) after the 2005 earthquake.”

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He urged contractors to complete these schools within the shortest possible duration.

The initiative to rebuild these schools has been undertaken by the education department.

In the aftermath

Over 80,000 people lost their lives in the October 8, 2005 earthquake that ripped through parts of Punjab, K-P and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The education sector was badly affected as over 7,000 educational institutes were damaged.

Following the earthquake, over $6 billion were pledged in international aid while about $4 billion poured into the country.

ERRA was established by the then government of Pakistan to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation in various parts of K-P, AJK and Punjab. Over the last decade, ERRA has been able to reconstruct 1,605 schools.

The 760 schools for which the government has allocated Rs8 billion are situated in Hazara and have been left out of ERRA’s strategy.

Schools in the non-strategy category lists of ERRA and PERRA have been ignored for over a decade by successive provincial governments as well as the federal entities entrusted with rebuilding them.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th,  2016.


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