Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan consulted senior party leaders to discuss possible scenarios and strategy to deal with the agitators while the local administration has called in the army to maintain law and order, where as, the Azaadi march demanding the Prime Minister's resignation edges close to the federal capital.
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) caravan, wich started its journey from Karachi on Sunday and left Lahore on Wednesday evening, is expected to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday after a short stopover at Gujar Khan, some 45km from Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
PM Imran Khan, during the meeting, was said to be looking calm as he didn't express any worry over the agitation planned to be staged at Peshawar Mor in Islamabad and termed the Azaadi march show in Punjab a pathetic one. However, the government deployed army personnel in sensitive places in the capital for maintenance of law and order and keeping in view any possible untoward situation due to the opposition's showdown.
The Islamabad local administration requisitioned 111 Brigade in the highly secured Red Zone which houses sensitive buildings like Parliament House, Supreme Court, Foreign Office, Pakistan Television, Radio Pakistan and Diplomatic Enclave. The administration announced that three main arteries including Expressway, Kashmir Highway and 9th Avenue of the federal capital Islamabad will remain sealed from 11am to 5pm. However, some alternative routes will remain open to road traffic.
PM Imran Khan observed that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had already lost support of the main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The prime minister was of the view that although Lahore is a stronghold of the PML-N, not a single leader of N-League including its president Shahbaz Sharif joined Maulana Fazlur Rehman during the Lahore stopover of Azaadi marchers on Wednesday, he added.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told media that Prime Minister Imran Khan decided during his meeting with party leaders to stick to the government's security plan made for the opposition's agitation in Islamabad.
In this connection, the prime minister directed Interior Minister retired brigadier Ijaz Shah to hold a press conference on Thursday to apprise the people of government's strategy and security plan. For this purpose, Brig Shah along with Firdous Ashiq Awan held a press conference at 11.15am on Thursday.
Firdous Ashiq Awan said the PM reiterated that the government would adhere to the agreement inked between the opposition's Rehbar committee and the Islamabad local administration on a reciprocal basis if it was also followed by the Azaadi marchers. She quoted the prime minister as saying that the government would otherwise deal with the troublemakers with an iron hand.
Meanwhile, the local administration completed security arrangements and received additional support from Frontier Constabulary and Punjab Constabulary whose 3,000 and 1,000 personnel, respectively, were deployed in the federal capital. Besides, 300 policemen were also called in from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. To handle an untoward situation, the administration reportedly also purchased tear-gas shells and other security equipment worth Rs50 million.
The opposition's Rehbar committee had already presented to the government some of its demands including PM Imran Khan's resignation though the government had rejected it. The committee also demanded holding of fresh elections, lifting of curbs on the media, enforcement of Islamic clause in the Constitution, reining in of National Accountability Bureau and the supremacy of civilian institutions.
At the meeting, PM Imran Khan particularly barred the leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from issuing humiliating statements against ailing Nawaz Sharif. Medical reports of Mr Sharif show that he is in a critical condition and it would be inappropriate to pass humiliating remarks against him, the prime minister was quoted as saying.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Mr Imran Khan was of the opinion that all government's spokespersons and leaders of the ruling party must keep the issue of Kashmir alive and raise it in TV talk shows. The prime minister was of the view that ruling party leaders must expose Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi's fresh move to take representatives of European Union to Kashmir to misguide them on the issue of tyranny and inhuman attitude of the Indian government against innocent Kashmiris, she added.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that PM also highlighted the need for inter-faith harmony especially during the holy month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. Responding to a question, Firdous Ashiq Awan explained that PM Imran Khan had asked the PTI leaders to avoid giving statements against Nawaz Sharif until the latter passed any ‘derogatory’ remarks against the government.