The government announced on Thursday that it would allow Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to hold its anti-rigging rally in Blue Area, Islamabad – but warned that its approval was still conditional.
In what appears to be an understanding between the government and PTI, the Islamabad administration will facilitate Imran’s party in the use of the venue for its demonstrations. Apparently, assurances were sought and given that the protesters would remain peaceful.
Both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri are planning to launch a massive protest movement against alleged rigging in the May 11 general elections last year, which brought the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) into power.
“We have informed PTI in writing that they are allowed to hold the rally but with conditions. Ironically, a trend has been set to hold processions, sit-ins and rallies at venues close to the most sensitive institutions,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters on Thursday.
The conditions include: no one will be allowed to enter the capital with firearms, including anything that could be used for aggression such as sticks and fireworks; participants will not be allowed to bring infants and small children in the rally; protestors will not be allowed to bring cargo containers; vehicles will not be allowed to go beyond a specified point at around Blue Area.
Separately, an official told The Express Tribune that Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to PTI for holding the protest rally in Express Chowk, Jinnah Avenue.
Local PTI representatives and officials of the district administration reportedly held a meeting during which the decision was taken to issue the NOC.
At the press conference, the interior minister said check posts will be set up on different routes leading to Islamabad where police will inspect every vehicle and any one found violating the ban will be turned away.
However, the government is wary of the intentions of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s PAT whose rally is coinciding with PTI’s protests in the adjoining garrison city, Rawalpindi.
Without naming PAT, Nisar claimed that he had reports that there were certain groups that want to take advantage of PTI’s rally and create a law and order situation.
“A certain group is planning to create chaos in the PTI rally. No one should have any doubt that it will not be tolerated. We have allocated the venue to PTI despite our apprehensions,” Nisar firmly stated.
Nisar said the government was considering earmarking a specific venue for processions and rallies in Islamabad for the future. D-Chowk is not a place for such activities as it not only affects the business community but also the country’s most important institutions and the diplomatic missions, he added.
In response to a question, Nisar said Imran Khan’s rigging charges had nothing to do with the PML-N government since these matters were related to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the courts that work independently.
National Assembly session
Chaudhry Nisar also assured lawmakers that the government had no objection to PTI holding a “peaceful rally” in Islamabad. “PTI will not only have permission, but the Islamabad administration will also facilitate the party,” he said, addressing lawmakers on Thursday.
“We have no doubts over Imran Khan’s statement that the rally would be peaceful, and it is his party’s democratic right to protest.”
The rally plan
According to the protest plan, participants would assemble at Jinnah Avenue from China Chowk. The vehicles of the protesters will be parked at Khyber Plaza or Kulsoom Chowk and participants would reach the venue on foot from then on.
The rally will start at 10:30 am and end at noon.
A senior police official said that 35,000 police personnel would be deployed to avoid any untoward incident. PTI will provide 16 CCTV cameras and another six cameras will be placed by the district administration. Some 32 walkthrough gates will also be placed along the way.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2014.
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