A political showdown in Islamabad was expected next week as the government started putting in place pre-emptive measures to foil the anticipated long march by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for which the call could be given any time next week, sources in both sides said on Wednesday.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has announced an “Azadi March” towards the federal capital to force the coalition government to resign. Imran had said in his recent public rallies and party meeting that he could give the call for the march any time.
On the other hand, the coalition parties in a meeting on Wednesday decided that no-one would be allowed to storm the federal capital. The coalition parties also warned the governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to refrain from becoming “tools of Imran”.
According to PTI sources in Peshawar, Imran would give the call for the long march on the second or the third day of next week. They added that Imran had decided to lead the march from Lahore, but hastily added that the final decision in this regard would be taken after consultation.
Soon after the announcement of the march, the sources said, caravans of PTI supporters, led by the party lawmakers, would stage sit-ins on the roads and highways leading to Islamabad with a view to stopping the entry and exit into the federal capital.
In this regard, they said that the party had completed all the preparations and alerted the party lawmakers, office-bearers and workers to get ready after Sunday. The party had also assigned responsibilities to the relevant lawmakers.
The PTI plans to bring 100,000 people in the caravans from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Azad Kashmir to block the entry and exit routes of Islamabad. It also plans to set up temporary shops for the marchers at the sit-in points, according to the sources.
When contacted, K-P Minister Shaukat Yousafzai said that this time, the PTI would come with full preparation. “[Interior Minister] Rana Sanaullah will not have to use tear gas,” he said, referring to the police action against the previous PTI march in May.
“On whom will they use tear gas when we will not enter their territory [Islamabad],” Yousafzai asked. “We have planned to block Islamabad from all sides,” he added. When asked about the government pre-emptive measures, he replied, “Rana Sana is nervous and nervousness always leads to wrong decisions.”
Yousafzai was referring to the measures being put in place by the government to deal with the protesters. The interior minister had mobilised the administration and police to thwart the march. The administration had also arranged containers to seal the entrances of the federal capital.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the Islamabad police had arranged more than 1,100 containers, which would be used to seal the capital for a week, if necessary, after the announcement of the sit-in. If the roads were blocked, the educational institutions would also be closed for a week.
Moreover, the authorities had arranged 50,000 rubber bullets and 60,000 teargas shells. Ten drones would also be provided to the administration to monitor the situation from the air. Helicopters were also expected to be used to stop riots.
Sources said that the police had prepared lists for the arrests of PTI’s financiers, who are being monitored nowadays. They also said that the authorities were also considering detention of the former premier at his Bani Gala residence if he led the march from there.
Senior officials, however, said that detaining the PTI chief was merely a suggestion they were considering, and a decision in this regard would be taken at a higher level, and that’s too after the announcement of the date of the march.
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