ISLAMABAD: Police arrested on Sunday more than 100 supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who entered Islamabad days before a planned protest shutdown of the capital.
PTI workers were intercepted by law enforcement personnel amid attempts to reach their party chief’s residence in Bani Gala.
All roads, avenues and passages have been sealed and security is on high alert. Police also fired tear gas shells on PTI workers to disperse them from gathering near the party chief’s residence.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children’s offshore bank accounts which were revealed in the Panama Papers leak.
Imran has threatened to “lock down” Islamabad on Wednesday to force Sharif to accept an inquiry into the affair.
The new protest plan comes at a sensitive time for Nawaz, with the Supreme Court due to start hearing a case about the Panama Papers revelations on Monday.
“About 450 people entered Islamabad today,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference. “Police intercepted them but most of them ran away, many leaving their cars behind. Police arrested more than 100 of them.”
Officers seized seven Kalashnikov rifles, 21 rifle magazines, tear gas and seven bulletproof jackets, the minister said.
The minister said that on Saturday night some 1,200 PTI activists tried to drive in convoy to Islamabad from Peshawar. When police stopped them on the motorway they beat up officers but had to retreat when reinforcements arrived.
“The lockdown of the capital is not a crime against government, but a crime against the state. We are a nuclear power and what impression will it make before the world if a mob comes to the capital of the country to shut it down?” the minister said.
Won’t accept a criminal as prime minister: Imran
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan vowed on Sunday to go after the prime minister for accountability until the former breathes his last.
“Government is spending public money to save a culprit. State machinery is being used to save the corruption of one person. I have come here to hold you accountable,” Imran said while referring to the prime minister. Warning Nawaz, he said he will not let the premier go with the looted wealth of the masses.
Imran asked the judiciary why he has been put under house arrest and why the PTI workers were being arrested. “I want to ask the country’s judiciary what kind of democracy is being practiced in the country.”
“Can you stop the people from reaching Islamabad? Will you be able to stop them?” he asked Nawaz. “We will not stop even if you don’t let us go on Nov 2. Until I am alive I won’t quit this struggle.”
Police ‘recover’ tear gas, bullet proof vests from PTI minister’s car
Several bulletproof vests, one teargas firing gun, two SMGs, one hand gun, several bullets and a bottle of alcohol were recovered from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Minister Ali Amin Gandapur’s Gandapur’s vehicle, police said.
The K-P minister was trying to reach Bani Gala along with a number of PTI activists who clashed with police before several of them were detained. Later, Gandapur arrived at Bani Gala.
Later, reacting over Nisar’s evening presser, Imran advised the interior minister to present himself for accountability in the wake of Panama leaks. “Why is Chaudhry Nisar working for a corrupt man and someone whose money is lying abroad,” he asked.
Regarding the ‘lockdown,’ Imran said Islamabad would itself witness a lockdown if one million people from different provinces enter the capital.
The PTI chairman said Gandapur carried the arms, those too licensed, because he has threats from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Dera Ismael Khan.
Shireen Mazari’s ‘bravery’
Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari was briefly stopped by police from going to Bani Gala. “We are waiting for Nov 2. The government, with its actions, has itself made our lockdown successful,” Mazari said while speaking to the media upon reaching Bani Gala.
The PTI is primarily relying on its political bastion in K-P to provide manpower for its scheduled Nov 2 Islamabad protest which was preceded by a government crackdown on the PTI and its allied parties.
The arrest of PTI workers started on the evening of October 27 when the party tried to hold a youth convention in Sector E-11, hours after the district magistrate banned all kinds of assemblies and gatherings of five or more people in the capital.
In summer 2014, Imran led a mass protest that lasted four months. He allied himself with populist cleric Tahirul Qadri to stage a sit-in outside parliament calling for the government to resign over vote-rigging allegations.
The protest was called-off in December 2014 after Taliban militants stormed an army-run school in Peshawar and killed 154 people, most of them children.