Unmoved by curbs, ex-prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to reach Islamabad for sit-in till announcement of elections
ISLAMABAD: With the PTI marching towards the federal capital, the government is reportedly planning to detain party chairman Imran Khan and his associates on their way from Peshawar despite the government's decision to disallow a long march.
The News reported a top security official as saying that the action will be taken in a bid to stop what Imran Khan is saying will be the "biggest procession" in Pakistan's history.
On Tuesday, the government decided to use all its force to foil PTI's 'Azadi March,' with the police continuing its crackdown against PTI workers and officials. Section 144 has been imposed in Lahore, Karachi and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the roads leading up to the capital city from different parts of the country have been blocked.
Even the Pakistan Army has been called in by the government to help protect Islamabad's Red Zone.
A total of 162 PTI workers have been arrested in Lahore, official sources tell Geo.tv.The arrests have been made after Section 144 was imposed in Punjab.
However, unmoved by any of the curbs, ex-prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan and other party leaders vowed to reach Islamabad for the sit-in till the announcement of new elections.
Sources privy to the matter said that the authorities have discussed the plan of Imran Khan's detention with all its aspects and consequences in meetings with different agencies, and decided to go ahead with the plan using all available resources.
They said the government has no option but to detain them to "stop the carnage the march may cause" though it appears to be an unfeasible task at this point in the political scenario.
Citing the reports of intelligence agencies, the sources said that even the PTI activists will be well-equipped to counter any resistance from the law enforcement agencies. The government agencies are well aware of the situation that in these circumstances, a clash could not be averted, they added.
Some of the PTI workers marching towards Islamabad from Lahore engaged in a clash with the police at Batti Chowk in Lahore as they tried to remove the barricades on the roads.
The police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the PTI workers and restrict them from advancing to Ravi Bridge.
The PTI’s Lahore chapter had asked its workers to gather at the Batti Chowk today from where they were to depart for Islamabad.
The party workers gathered at the intersection and clashed with the police when they removed barriers after which the police fired tear gas shells in order to clear the area.
Meanwhile, the police also encircled the car of former health minister Yasmeen Rashid in an attempt to stop her from moving forward.
According to the video circulating on social media, a PTI supporter came forward and verbally abused the police officials. Meanwhile, Yasmeen tried stopping the police from taking away her car keys.
In a social media message, former federal minister Hammad Azhar announced that he has reached Batti Chowk.
With the clock ticking on the 'Azadi March', the local authorities have barricaded all entry points into Islamabad with heavy shipping containers to obstruct the way of PTI marchers.
The barricades have been placed for two primary tasks: first to contain the long march and second to ensure fool-proof security of the Red Zone. All the roads leading to Red Zone have been sealed, except Margalla Road. Containers have also been placed at D-Chowk to seal the area around the Old Parade Ground and Parliamentary Lodges.
Thousands of policemen, including the Anti-Riot Unit, Counter-Terrorism Force, Anti-Terrorism Force, and police reserve along with contingents from Rangers are being deployed to maintain the law and order situation in the city.
The residents of the twin cities have expressed grave concerns over the situation and demanded of the government and the political parties to avoid creating problems for the general public just for their political interests.
“It seems that we are living in a war zone as the whole city is sealed after every four to six months. If political parties have the right to hold protest marches then the residents of this city also have their rights that must be protected by the government,” Taimoor Aslam, a resident of Islamabad, said.
Meanwhile, barriers have been erected at several points on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway as well. The authorities have blocked all the land routes between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab by putting huge piles of mud, containers, ballast stones, cement blocks and iron barriers and fences at many places.
Heavy contingents of the personnel of stick-wielding police force and Rangers have also been deputed at GT Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway to stop the way of PTI workers towards Islamabad.
The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and elsewhere in the country, who wanted to come to KP, faced great hardships due to blockade of roads in the two provinces. The blocking of GT Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway was started at 5pm on Tuesday.
The GT Road was blocked at Iqbal Shaheed Park in Nowshera, Attock, Khairabad Bridge, Haro Bridge and others while the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway was blocked at Swabi Interchange, Indus River Bridge and Hazro by placing containers and cement blocks to stop the entry of participants of rally into Punjab.
Meanwhile, the PTI workers have acquired heavy machinery and cranes to remove the containers, cement blocks and piles of mud from the road to ensure their smooth sailing towards Islamabad to stage the 'Azadi March'.
The PTI workers and leaders have expressed their resolve that they would stage rally towards the capital in the leadership of ex-prime minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and stage the Azadi March on Srinagar Highway. They vowed that they would remove all the hurdles erected in their way and reach the capital for a showdown against the “imported government”.