ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s 14 August mass protest media campaign faced first hurdle in the twin cities on Thursday, when some unknown men removed the party banners from Murree Road .
Anticipating a huge rush on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, PTI had displayed hundreds of banners on polls of green belts at different places of Murree Road , stretched more than 70 kilometres between Rawalpindi and Murree .
PTI officials say that the Azadi March media campaign has yet to start , but they hanged banners and billboards on Murree Road to create awareness about the march , among tourists coming from across the country for Eid vacations.
“We exhibited banners calling people to come and participate in the march , at many prominent roundabouts of the capital, including, Rawal Dam Chowk, Dhokri Chowk, Lake View Park u-turn and on Murree Road for awareness purpose”, said Ali Awan, one of the main organisers of Azadi March .
He alleged that the local administration of the twin cities have removed these banners .
“They (administration) have removed the banners on the orders of government, the objective is to flop the march”, he claimed.
The residents of Malpur, a suburb of the capital, situated on Murree Road , have also confirmed that some youngsters removed banners .
“They were two young Pathans, who had removed the banners , they were having a Suzuki Pickup with them, and they were dumping the banners inside that van”, said Aman Abbasi.
Babar Raheem, who runs a general store near Malpur, said that he saw some people tearing off the PTI banners .
“This cowardly act cannot affect our preparations. Wwe are putting fresh banners , where they are removed or destroyed,” said Sadaqat Abbasi, the party’s northern Punjab president.
PTI officials claim they were ready for even bigger barriers.
“The local administration has been given a task to create hurdles in our protest sit-in. Even we have learnt that administration is planning to arrest PTI leadership under 16 MPO, but we are not afraid and will do the sit-in on 14 August at any cost,” Abbasi said in a firm tone.
According to organisers, PTI will start its nationwide public awareness campaign from coming Monday.
“After Monday we will formally launch our massive media campaign in which we will display banners and hoardings throughout the country.
He said that workers conventions would also be held in all the tehsils of northern Punjab from Sargodha to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, starting from Chakwal and Sargodha on August 3 and ending with a final convention on August 9 in Rawalpindi.
He claimed that more than 500,000 people would come to Islamabad for the rally from Rawalpindi division alone.
Besides Abbasi, there are many other PTI members excited about the march . “It is a matter of life and death for us”, said Asma, a PTI media team member.
Despite all optimism and thrill regarding the upcoming protest, the PTI workers seem uneasy on the deployment of army in the capital.
She was of the view that the army factor decrease the number of woman participants in the Azadi March .
“They have called Army just to create a sense of insecurity, whereas we have seen that people from all over the country thronged the capital on Eid vacations, but there was no law and order situation,” she said.
In order to allay this fear, the PTI plans to display hundreds of thousands of banners , billboards and hangings throughout the country. But these banners and other display materials may face strong resistance from the local administration on legal grounds.
CDA Spokesperson Asim Khichi insisted that the civic authority’s approval is must for displaying any banner in the capital.
“According to rules, if someone displays hoardings or banners in the capital without prior permission and submission of fee, he is committing an illegal act,” he said.
While on the hand, PTI is of the view that permission or fee is for commercial activities only and for political activity they don’t need any permission.
According to sources, the PTI would apply for approval from the local administration for the protest sit-in once the venue is finalised.
PTI has called for the mass march on Islamabad on August 14 to register its protest against the alleged widespread rigging in the 2013 general elections.