The federal government is mulling different options to deal with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) scheduled lockdown of the federal capital on November 2, including putting its leadership under house arrest and a large-scale crackdown on party workers, it was learnt.
Informed sources told Business Recorder that the government is seriously considering the option to arrest its central leadership and the second tier leadership ahead of the November 02 protest.
“Although, there are still many days left for PTI’s protest plan, yet all the relevant quarters are debating the different options and sharing their opinions on the strategy to deal with the expected assault on the federal capital,” said a cabinet minister who requested not to be named.
He added the central leadership will take the final decision after getting complete input from security and intelligence agencies.
Sources within Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration said that the authorities are seriously deliberating over how to deal with PTI’s lockdown plan following the directives of Ministry of Interior.
“The option of arresting PTI leaders, sealing of the capital, and imposing section 144 cannot be ruled out,” said a senior official of district administration.
He further said that the city police have started anti-riot training of police personnel with a view to effectively dealing with the lockdown plan of the city by PTI on November 2.
He further stated that more than 1000 police personnel of different ranks, equipped with anti-riot gears including anti-riot shields, helmets, batons and non lethal weapons are participating in the training on a daily basis.
The official further said that capital police are also planning to call Punjab and AJK police to the capital before November 2.
The government had deputed as many as 5,000 personnel of the Punjab police, 1,000 from the AJK police and 3,000 personnel of Frontier Constabulary (FC) in the capital when PTI and PAT marchers staged sit-ins in Islamabad back in 2014.
He said that PTI has not yet formally contacted the administration for issuance of an NOC. However, he said the administration had tackled such demonstrations in the past and would handle the upcoming protest as per the directives of the political government.
He said the government is also deliberating putting the Pakistan army on stand-by to assist police in case of any untoward situation as well as to ensure security of the important installations in the Red-Zone.
However, PTI has warned that the party will give a tough response if the government created any hurdles in its plan to lockdown Islamabad.
The party sources said that a legal team of the party would approach the court against the possible arrest of the party leadership as well as workers.
They said that PTI has planned to block 10 different entry and exit points, the city’s main arteries, on November 2; and party workers have been given the task to ensure maximum participation on these designated points including Khanna Pull, Faizabad, Athal Chowk, Bara Kahu, Aabpara Chowk, Tarnol Chowk, Rawat, Kashmir Highway and Zero point to completely lockdown the city.
Following successful blockage of the entry points, the protesters will move inside the city to block main roads such as Jinnah Avenue, 9th Avenue, 7th Avenue, Khayaban-e-Suharwardi and other major roads.
Talking toBusiness Recorder PTI parliamentarian Murad Saeed said that his party leadership has fully mobilised workers to ensure their maximum participation as well as to deal with any government strategy to create hurdles in the lockdown plan.
“We are fully prepared for a head-on collision with the government. We’ve already formulated a comprehensive plan to lockdown the federal capital which might be extended to other cities, if needed,” he said.
He also said the party workers have proved their strength by staging a 126-day-long sit-in in 2014, and now we are also ready to face any situation created by the government to thwart our protest.
The PTI had to wind up its 126-day long sit-in protest in Islamabad due to Army Public School attack in 2014 “otherwise the government had failed to effectively resolve the situation,” he further stated. -Business Recorder