The political atmosphere in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi is tense with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) calling for countrywide protests on Friday after police stormed a youth convention of the party and arrested activists in the federal capital late on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Awami Muslim League (AML) has vowed to go ahead with its plan of holding a political meeting at Shaikh Rashid’s Lal Haveli residence, despite a ban on public gatherings.
PTI’s top brass, including Asad Omer and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has been stationed at the residence of Imran Khan in Banigala. They reviewed the situation and made preparations in connection with today’s protest rally.
Normal traffic can be witnessed on the Murree road, the main artery connecting lying between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, as education institutes, offices and businesses function as usual in the twin cities. However the turnings on the road that leads to Lal Haveli, where an a AML gathering is scheduled for the afternoon, have been blocked with placement of containers.
Authorities have suspended the Metro Bus Service in the twin cities “till further orders”. Although skeleton staff was present, entrance gates of all bus stops have been locked for public since Thursday evening.
Section 144 was imposed in the twin cities a day earlier, leading to a ban on public gatherings and usage of loudspeakers.
PTI’s plan for today
The PTI has devised a strategy for the day after a meeting of the party’s top cadres.
Imran Khan has directed party workers to reach Banigala by 1pm to take out a rally from his residence to Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi where Sheikh Rasheed of AML has planned a political convention.
Tensions at Banigala
Late in the night, three busses of frontier constabulary (FC) personnel reached the residence of the PTI supremo and troops were deployed in the area. Deployment of police also began in the area early morning.
Meanwhile, PTI activists have also taken their positions in front of Khan’s residence in case things take an ugly turn. A PTI volunteer claimed that around 2500 party workers have already reached Banigala.
Situation at Lal Haveli
The AML convention was scheduled as a warm up exercise ahead of the Nov 2 showdown by the PTI. AML, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) of Tahir-ul-Qadri, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) have announced to join the sit-in.
Since last night, all the five ways leading to Shaikh Rashid’s residence, where PTI Chairman Imran Khan is due to address a gathering, have been sealed. Shops around the area were also sealed by authorities ahead of the meeting.
Rashid, who slept at a friend’s residence last night, arrived at Committee Chowk in the morning where he vowed to hold a programme after Friday prayers at every cost. He said the convention would be held at the Committee Chowk as administration had sealed roads to Lal Haveli where the program was scheduled to be held. Earlier, Rashid in a video statement urged his followers to offer Friday prayers in nearby mosques and assemble at Lal Haveli.
Earlier on Thursday, he announced to “tear Section 144 into 144 pieces” as the administration announced to impose Section 144.
“On Nov 2, Rawalpindi will be closed down no matter what anyone does,” he said.
PTI and the government have locked horns since the names of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family members appeared in the Panama Papers leaks.
After months of verbal war between the parties, Imran Khan announced plans to lay siege on the capital on Nov 2, and vowed to stay put until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns or presents himself for accountability in the backdrop of the Panama Papers scandal.
Imran claims the revelations in Panama Papers are proof of the PM’s corruption, so he should give up his position. In constrast, the ruling PML-N has accused Khan of sowing anarchy with his plans and claimed that the party leadership and PM’s family are ready for accountability through proper channels.