ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Thursday gave the impression that all the issues were almost settled and ‘no heaven would fall’ as a result of the protest rallies of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who apparently looked cool and calm said in a press conference that the government had, in principle, decided to give permission to PTI and PAT to hold their protest rallies in the capital. “The situation is under control as Pakistan is not a banana republic,” he said, advising the masses to become patient and come out of the fear of any sit-in. He denied the army was involved in any back-channel deal between the government and the protesting parties. “Don’t drag the army in such matters,” he said.
The minister informed the reporters that the government, on an application of PTI given to Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration, had decided to give it permission for a protest rally in the capital. “A similar decision is being made for PAT as we have received its verbal request and an application would be received soon,” said the interior minister, adding it had also agreed on some condition set by the government. The venue for both of the parties had been decided according to their desire, he added.
“We are seeking guarantees from both the protesting parties that they will remain peaceful and no weapon will be allowed in the rallies which will remain within the ambit of law and the Constitution,” Chaudhry Nisar said and warned whosoever turned violent and breached the security of the Red Zone of the capital would be dealt with iron hands.
Chaudhry Nisar said the federal government had implemented the decision of the Lahore High Court in letter and spirit though it had no jurisdiction in Islamabad and had removed the containers; now the other side would have to implement the decision. “The government has neither any objection to any democratic political activity nor will it stop such rallies, but they should remain with the ambit of law and the Constitution,” he reiterated.
The minister said some of the containers had not been removed in Islamabad and several areas were still sealed as security measures. “Both the rallies are likely to reach Islamabad tomorrow and we will open many of the routes of the twin cities for the movement of the general public,” he said, adding some routes would have to be restricted due to the rallies.
Nisar said security of Red Zone had been enhanced three times. “The government is concerned for the security of the participants of the rally as well as citizens of Islamabad. We have some international obligations with regard to security of Diplomatic Enclave and if the security of Red Zone or Diplomatic Enclave was breached, law will come into action,” he warned, adding red lines should not be crossed in the capital and anyone trying to do so would be dealt with iron hands.
Chaudhry Nisar said the government had tried to diffuse the circumstances from its side and had not answered the threats given from the other sides.
Responding to questions, the interior minister said the government had given no face saving to PTI to give it permission to hold the rally and ruled out any agreement with the protesting parties as a result of any backdoor deal. He also refused to give any details for how long both the parties had been given permission for a protest or whether they had been given permission for the rally or sit-in. He just said, “We have allowed the rallies.” He also said the government had made preparations for one million protesters in Islamabad. He asserted he had not seen any five-point formula of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq. The minister said the government was taking a number of steps to strengthen the present political system to avoid such situation in future.
The official sources in the Ministry of Interior and Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) affirmed they had decided to give permission to PTI for the protest rally from Aabpara Chowk to Zero Point. The parking for the vehicles had been permitted at Faisal Avenue, starting from Zero Pint to Faizabad Chowk. However, the venue for PAT had still to be decided by the administration, they said.
Ghulam Ali, media secretary, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), confirmed their negotiations with the administration were still going on to decide the venue and it would be finalised on Friday (today) whether PAT would jointly hold the rally or get a separate venue for the protest.