ISLAMABAD: Just a day after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry claimed all the arrangements for his party’s long march to the federal capital were in their final stages, the government decided to call out army and deploy troops in Islamabad if PTI chief Imran Khan gave a call for the march.
The decision was taken on Tuesday at a meeting, chaired by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, held to evolve a strategy to tackle the much-trumpeted march by the PTI.
The army troops would be called out in aid of civil administration under Article 245 of the Constitution, which says that “armed forces shall, under the directions of the federal government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.”
PTI Chairman Imran Khan had recently told a gathering in Taxila that his long march would give this time a ‘surprise’ to the government, which was clueless about his plan.
He said the march on Islamabad was aimed at pressing the authorities to hold early elections. While he has yet to give a final date of the protest, he has repeatedly said the government would find itself unable to control the ‘sea of people’ if and when they reach Islamabad on his call.
At the meeting, it was decided that Sindh police and personnel of paramilitary forces, including Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC), would be requisitioned to assist the capital police force during the protest.
As many as 30,000 personnel of Islamabad and Sindh police, Rangers and FC would be available to ensure law and order, the interior minister told the meeting.
It formally gave approval for ‘action’ against the individuals and organisations that would provide financial and logistic support to the PTI protest. There would be a complete ban on carrying firearms in the jurisdiction of Islamabad during the protest.
Necessary instructions were issued to ensure free movement of residents and to make sure that schools and hospitals of Islamabad remain functional during the march. It was also decided that the government employees assisting the marchers would be identified and acted against under the Estacode, a government’s book of rules and regulations to run all federal institutions.
Meanwhile, the farmers protest at Khayaban Chowk of Islamabad was called off after the Kisan Ittehad Pakistan (KIP) chairman on Tuesday was assured that Prime Minister Shehbaz Shairf would announce a Kisan package within a week.
A three-member ministerial committee has been constituted to implement the demands of protesting farmers.
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2022