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PTI lawyers give undertaking to hold Nov 2 protest at Parade Ground

ISLAMABAD: The Insaf Lawyers’ Forum (Islamabad chapter) — the lawyers’ body of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — gave the Islamabad High Court an undertaking on Friday that the party would hold its planned Nov 2 protest at the Parade Ground.

However, PTI chairman Imran Khan said at a press conference in the evening that his party might extend the protest to D-Chowk.

The IHC again ordered the district administration and police not to block the capital’s entrance by putting containers on roads and to avoid harassing PTI workers.

Read: Is this a kingdom or democracy? asks Imran Khan

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had directed the administration on Thursday to convey to the PTI that it could hold a protest rally at the Democracy Park and Speech Corner of the Parade Ground — the place designated by the government for all political and other rallies and events.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had developed the site for exhibitions and cultural events and spent Rs248 million on the site. The army held its annual Pakistan Day parade there last year.

The site is surrounded by the Islamabad Highway to the west, Murree Road to the south and Garden Avenue to the north.

While hearing a petition in 2014 seeking an exclusive site for future protests, sit-ins and other political activities, Justice Aziz Siddiqui had directed the CDA to designate and develop a suitable place for the purpose.

After several meetings and deliberations, the civic agency issued a notification on Nov 5 last year, designating the site in Islamabad for public meetings, protests and rallies and declaring the Parade Ground as the Democracy Park and Speech Corner.

However, the authorities did not make this notification public and it surfaced on Oct 26 when Justice Siddiqui took up four petitions against the Nov 2 ‘lockdown’ of Islamabad.

During a hearing on Nov 5 last year, the court had asked the Islamabad administration to comply with the notification.

On Thursday, Justice Siddiqui asked the district administration to make arrangements for the protest in the Democracy Park and Speech Corner and summoned PTI chairman Imran Khan for announcing that he wanted to shut down the capital.

The PTI leadership, however, expressed reservations over the order fixing the venue for the protest.

The same court on Friday heard the petitions filed by ILF leaders.

The petitioners informed the court that the PTI had planned a peaceful protest on Nov 2 against corruption and for accountability of the corrupt and its workers had also held a peaceful convention in Sector E-11, but police raided the spot and baton-charged the participants, besides arresting scores of them.

The petition pointed out that in his Oct 27 order, Justice Siddiqui had also restrained the district administration as well as the inspector general of Islamabad police from creating any hurdle in peaceful gathering of political workers, but the state institutions had used force against the petitioners, as well as PTI workers and leaders.

When the court asked whether the PTI and its leaders, including Mr Khan, were ready to comply with the court’s Oct 27 order, the petitioners and their counsel submitted that it would be respected in letter and spirit and the protest would be held at the designated place.

The court, through the state counsel Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Khan Jadoon, Fazalur Rehman Niazi and Arshad Mehmood Kiani, ordered the district administration and police not to harass any innocent person and not to block the city through containers or other means.

It asked the deputy commissioner and police chief to submit lists of arrested PTI workers, along with their particulars and offences for which they had been booked.

Justice Siddiqui asked the district administration “to remain within the four corners of Islamabad and if any violation of law is reported, then action in accordance with law may be initiated”.

Though the PTI counsel informed the judge that the party would comply with the Oct 27 order, he told Dawn that party leadership had engaged Naeem Bokhari and Babar Awan to challenge the order.

According to him, an appeal against the order may be filed before a two-judge bench of the IHC or before the Supreme Court.

PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq could not be contacted for comment.

The party’s chairman said at the press conference that it was evolving a strategy for the protest and might take it to D-Chowk.

Published in Dawn October 29th, 2016

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