7 July 2022
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As former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s caravan is on its way to famous D-Chowk after entering Islamabad early on Thursday, the federal government has called in Pakistan Army for the security of the capital’s Red Zone.

“Pursuant to the law and order situation in the Islamabad Capital Territory, the federal government, in exercise of powers conferred under Article 245 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is pleased to authorise deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan in Red Zone in ICP in aid of civil power,” a statement issued by the interior ministry read.

The statement said that the decision was taken for the protection of important government buildings including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Parliament House, Presidency, Prime Minister’s Office and others.

Read more: PTI long march reaches Islamabad following day-long battle with law enforcers

It further said that the exact number of troops to be deployed will be worked out by the Pakistan Army authorities in consultation with the ICT administration.

Earlier in the day, former prime minister Imran Khan had asked his supporters to reach the D-Chowk of federal capital.

“The workers present at D-Chowk wait for me… I am bringing a sea of people there,” Imran Khan announced atop his container.

However, soon after Imran Khan’s announcement, the Capital Police vowed to stop anyone from entering the federal capital’s Red Zone.

“If anyone tried to come near the Red Zone, he will be dealt with an iron hand,” Islamabad IG Dr Akber Nasir said.

Akber said that he has asked the officers not to use force in other areas of the capital. He also appealed to the protesters not to damage public property and remain peaceful.

Also read: PM urges nation to reject ‘politics of sit-ins, immorality’

Imran Khan, ousted in a no-confidence vote last month after losing partners in his coalition, has urged supporters to march on Islamabad and stay there until the new government is dissolved and a date for a fresh election is announced.

The PTI chairman has accused the United States for the removal of his government, saying that the current set-up was “imposed from outside”.

The former premier had vowed to bring more than two million people in Islamabad.

In a centrepiece showdown with his rivals, Khan had called for supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to convoy to Islamabad and stage a sit-in until fresh elections are announced.

The government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had pledged to stop the protesters from entering the D-Chowk, calling the rally an attempt to “divide the nation and promote chaos”.

Also read: Nawaz rejected deal offered by PTI leaders to Sadiq, claims Maryam

But in an emergency Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday afternoon, judges granted permission for the rally on the edge of the city, though Khan said he would press on with plans to reach the centre.

Police have since relaxed some routes into Islamabad, which was blockaded throughout the day with shipping containers on major entry and exit points.

“We voted for him and foreign powers threw him out of power. We won’t let this injustice take place,” Afzal Ali, 29, told AFP, after joining the convoy.

More than 1,700 people have been arrested since police began raiding the homes of PTI supporters on Monday night, said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, who has previously accused protesters of planning to carry weapons at the march.

Imran Khan came to power in 2018, voted in by an electorate weary of the dynastic politics of the country’s two major parties.

The former popular cricket star had promised to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism. He was brought down by opposition parties in part by his failure to rectify the country’s dire economic situation, including its crippling debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.

But he retains mass support throughout the country, particularly among the youth.

(With input from agencies)

Abdul Gh Lone