A million people will shut down Islamabad, claims Imran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chair­man Imran Khan on Sunday hinted that the party had no plan to “lock down” the federal capital, but claimed the presence of “a million activists” would automatically shut the city down on Nov 2.

“Once a million people pour into Islamabad, it will obviously shut down,” Mr Khan said at a press conference outside his hilltop residence in Banigala. The PTI leader was obviously responding to a statement by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who had addressed his own press conference earlier in the day.

This is the first time Mr Khan has said that a lockdown of the capital was not the PTI’s initial plan and simply a consequence of a large influx of people from different parts of the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, press releases issued recently by the PTI have clearly described its plan to block the city from several points.

Weapons allegedly seized from KP minister’s vehicle

Meanwhile, the government stuck to its stance that it would not allow the PTI to paralyse life in Islamabad, a point the interior minister reiterated in his press conference. “Lockdown of the capital is not a crime against the government, but the state. This time, PTI is targeting Pakistan Secretariat,” he alleged, referring to the seat of the bureaucracy on Constitution Avenue.

In order to beef up security in Islamabad and boost security personnel’s morale, the interior minister has decided to give Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel a large raise, a senior interior ministry official told Dawn.

It is believed that an accident on the motorway near Hazro on Saturday, where an army lieutenant colonel and a major were seriously wounded while trying to get around barricades erected by Punjab police, prompted the government to remove all such barriers.

On Saturday night, the interior minister had ordered containers on the motorway and the Punjab-KP border to be lifted, which may make it easier for PTI activists to proceed to Islamabad from KP on Nov 2.

An influx of people from KP was also reported on Sunday and hundreds of PTI workers entered the city. This was confirmed by the interior minister during his press conference, when he said the Islamabad police had intercepted 400 PTI workers, led by MPA Ali Amin Gandapur, near Banigala and recovered arms from two vehicles.

Mr Gandapur claimed on television that two of the five assault rifles found on him were licensed, while the others were official weapons provided to his security guards. Police also claimed to have recovered a teargas launcher and bottles of liquor from his vehicles, but Mr Gandapur claimed those were not his. He also claimed that he had been carrying honey in the liquor bottle.

Uncertainty in capital

Uncertainty looks to be the order of the day on Monday, as educational institutions and government offices are set to open, but no one is sure of what may happen. “Parents are asking me whether they should send their children to schools or not. I have no answer for them,” Chaudhry Nisar told the press conference, adding that it was the government’s responsibility to protect state institutions.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad police continued the arrest of PTI workers on Sunday, and according to police sources, around 125 people were rounded up. The interior minister confirmed the arrest of over 100 people.

However, he said the government had no plans to arrest peaceful PTI workers; only those who created trouble would be taken into custody.

At his press conference, Imran Khan asked the government why, if it had no intention to stop the party from staging a protest, the routes leading to Islamabad had been blocked.

“If the KP border was sealed to stop people from gun-running, then why were Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi and Banigala barricaded?” he wondered.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2016

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