Thousands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activists and supporters from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, led by the provincial Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, reached Islamabad late Thursday night to take part in the party’s Azadi march.
The 700-vehicle caravan from the PTI-ruled province had set out for the federal capital early in the day and took close to 12 hours to reach their destination. A number of charged PTI’s activists from Rawalpindi had already gathered at Faizabad area late in the evening and were waiting for their leader, Imran Khan.
Although PTI Additional General Secretary Saifullah Niazi was supposed to lead the procession from K-P to Islamabad, Chief Minister Khattak later announced that he would lead party workers himself.
Supporters and party activists from several districts of K-P, including Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera and Malakand in addition to Peshawar, had been gathering at the designated place since morning to take part in the Azadi march. Vehicles arranged by the party had been parked across the city to take the participants to Islamabad.
According to an intelligence report, a total of 742 vehicles carrying around 8,643 PTI workers passed the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway between 3-5pm.
Although the PTI caravan from K-P reached the outskirts of Islamabad around 10pm, the marchers were not allowed to enter the federal capital by authorities for hours. The procession was stopped as it tried to enter the city at Gorla Morr, in Rawalpindi. Rallies led by the party’s additional secretary general Saifullah Niazi and Amin Gandapur were also stopped at Pirwadhai.
The situation was defused, however, after PTI leaders Atif Khan and Ismael Sahara talked to officials of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration. The two leaders said their negotiations with the ICT authorities were successful and orders for the removals of shipping containers from the roads had been issued.
Soon after the negotiations, television footage showed the PTI convoy breaking through the second barrier of shipping containers at Golra Morr.
Talking to reporters at Golra Morr, Chief Minister Khattak said, “A tsunami has converged upon Islamabad to expose the unconstitutional and undemocratic government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).”
“The whole of Pakistan has come here to tell the rulers that they formed their government through rigging and electoral fraud,” he said. “A government formed by undemocratic and unconstitutional means is illegal and illegitimate, and it will be removed,” the chief minister added.
The first-ever long march in Pakistan was convened by Abdul Qayyum Khan of Pakistan Muslim League (Qayyum) in 1958 against Chief Martial Law Administrator General Ayub Khan from Gujrat to Rawalpindi, but it failed to yield results. In another campaign, long or “train marches” started from Dhaka to Chittagong and from Peshawar to Karachi that compelled General Ayub Khan to resign and hold elections in 1965. According to historians, the election was rigged in favour of the general.
PPP leader Benazir Bhutto along with other political forces, under the name of People Democratic Forum, organised a long march against then PM Nawaz Sharif in November 1992 from Karachi to Islamabad because of similar poll-rigging allegations that are now being levelled by PTI leader Imran Khan. These political leaders again organised a march.
Pakistan Bar Council started the long march in June 14, 2008 to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and other judges, but it could not achieve the objective. Later, Nawaz Sharif, other political parties and members of civil society started a long march in March 2009. The then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani restored the judges.
PTI who has now calling for “Azadi march” had earlier organised a march from Islamabad to Waziristan against drone attacks in October 2012.
The “million-man march” was convened by Tahirul Qadri in January 2013 in Islamabad. He remained in a container for a few days, but failed to achieve the target, which was to bring about a revolution in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th,2014.