RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD - The expected arrival of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and efforts of tens of thousands of PAT, PML-Q and AML workers to reach Islamabad airport to welcome him appears to have got on the nerves of federal and Punjab governments.
Qadri is scheduled to land at 7:30am today (Monday) from Dubai via Emirates flight number EK-612 after which he is to proceed towards Lahore along with his supporters in the form of a big rally. Reports also said he is expected to make a stopover in Gujrat.
The Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) chief has threatened to lead mass protests against the government as part of his plan to stage a peaceful ‘revolution’ to oust the PML-N government and express support to armed forces against the militants.
The scare of Qadri is so high that Rawalpindi administration on Sunday blocked all the main roads in the whole division, setting up checkpoints where Qadri’s supporters were being thoroughly filtered out. Hundreds of PAT activists and leaders have been arrested.
Rawalpindi city and district administrations also blocked all the main roads leading to the airport, arrested many political activists and imposed Section 144 to stop any kind of political activity. There were reports that mobile phone service is also expected to be suspended today (Monday).
Security was also further beefed up in Islamabad and heavy presence of police and paramilitary forces was seen on the roads on Sunday. ICT police sealed off entrance and exit points of the capital city by installing barricades while patrolling across the capital city was enhanced. Police also raided PAT office in the city and sealed it.
Before boarding his flight in London, Dr Qadri said that the Nawaz government is afraid of his arrival and planning to divert his plane to Lahore or Sialkot. He said he will lead a march towards PM House if his plane is diverted.
In a Twitter post issued on the eve of his comeback, Qadri said: “I am coming to support our army in their fight against militants.” Using the hashtag #RiseUpWithDrQadri, another post said: “Now it’s the duty of the poor people of Pakistan to come out and bring a revolution.”
Qadri in his statement from London said, “I am determined to be with the people of Pakistan who are in dire need of a peaceful revolution to curb the brutal regime of Nawaz family”. He said, “I have direct reports from inside sources that Nawaz Sharif is planning to divert my flight to Lahore or Sialkot so that millions who will come to airport would not listen to my speech.”
The Rawalpindi administration and police on Sunday blocked all the main roads with containers and barbed wires in the whole division to stop PAT workers and other Qadri supporters from reaching the airport. The convoys of PAT workers were barred on several entrance points of the division while arrests were also made to sabotage Qadri’s welcome preparations.
Several leaders and workers of PAT were also rounded up from the DCO office where they were invited for talks with the district government. DCO Sajid Zafar Dall also imposed Section 144 in Rawalpindi district with an immediate effect. Police erected checkpoints on all exit and entry points of the city and kept searching and frisking vehicles and people on Sunday.
Talking to the media, the DCO said that emergency has been enforced under which holding of public meetings and rallies, and carrying banners and party flags in the areas near the airport, is banned. He said Section 144 will remain enforced until Tuesday and use of loudspeakers and display of arms would not be allowed, while pillion riding in the city has also been prohibited.
All the roads leading to the airport have been blocked by placing containers, dumpers, trucks and barbed wires in a bid to halt workers of PAT and its allied parties Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rasheed. Heavy deployment of police and Rangers has also been made in and around the airport. However, domestic and international air travellers were allowed to go to the airport on showing tickets and other documents through a shuttle service.
The roads and squares have been blocked by the City District Government Rawalpindi and police including Katchehri Chowk, T-Chowk Rawat, Soan Bridge, Chakri Road, Ranyal, Moti Mehal, Chandni Chowk, Faizabad Interchange, Koral Chowk, Kahnna Bridge and many other linking roads like Ayub Park and Jhanda Chechi. The passengers of Jeddah bounded flight scheduled to fly at 6pm from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIIA) experienced difficulties in reaching the airport.
Police also launched massive crackdowns in several areas of Rawalpindi division and nabbed a large number of PAT leaders and workers and locked them up in police stations or shifted them to unknown locations. According to sources, police during a hunt handcuffed PAT leaders and workers including Muhammad Hanif Mustafvi, Ahmed Nawaz Anjum, Suhail Abbasi, Raja Sajid and Anwar Khan Gondal. A crackdown was also launched at Misrial Road during which five workers were arrested.
A PAT spokesman said that police stopped 20 vehicles coming from Bhakkar at Pirwadhai and arrested many workers including women. He said that same was done in Kallar Syedan, Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Chakwal and many other areas.
He alleged that police ransacked PAT offices in Chandni Chowk and Islamabad. A total of 500 workers have been held by police, he claimed. He said that despite all the negative tactics, PAT workers were reaching the airport on foot. He said that Dr Qadri would be accorded a warm welcome upon his arrival.