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Army takes charge of security in Islamabad

26 July, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The security of the federal capital will be handed over to the army from August 1 for the period of three months, a statement issued from the Prime Minister's Office said on Friday.

"The federal government has requisitioned the services of the Pakistan Army in aid of civil power in Islamabad," the statement said. "The army has been requisitioned under Article 245 of the constitution read with Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 to pre-empt any possible blow-back of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Army will be used for rapid response, patrolling, manning of check-posts, and intelligence pooling," it added. The military launched an offensive against the militants in their strongholds in ungoverned stretches of the northwest, along the Afghan border, last month.

The Pakistani Taliban, fighting to bring down the state, have vowed to retaliate. Pakistan has seen numerous militant attacks since it joined the United States in its "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001 attacks on US cities by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. Interestingly, the handing over of capital's security to the army coincides with PTI leader Imran Khan's planned rally on capital on the eve of August 14 to protest over the alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.

Imran has lately vowed not to vacate the capital till acceptance of his demands – audit of the whole 2013 election results being foremost – a scenario that the government fears could jeopardise civic life in capital and its twin city Rawalpindi. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, meanwhile, said the decision to allow Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to hold a protest rally in Islamabad will be given when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to the country from Saudi Arabia. Till date, the minister added, PTI has not made a request for the rally to the Islamabad deputy commissioner.

Meanwhile, clarifying a statement attributed in some circles of electronic media to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan about Article 245, a spokesman of the Interior Ministry denied Islamabad is being handed over to the army. In a press release issued on Friday, he said the fact is that army is called for a limited period for assistance of police and civil administration to stop any possible attack of terrorism and keep the overall situation of peace and security stable in Islamabad. He said in this connection, legal, constitutional and administrative aspects were being looked into for the last few weeks and after all it was decided to issue a formal notification on Thursday.

According to the notification, special contingents of armed forces will assist police and civil administration at some sensitive and important locations, including airport. Besides that army contingents will also perform duties as Rapid Response Force and they will have assistance and protection of Article 245 of the constitution. The government spokesman further clarified that wherever the army is needed or demanded in provincial capitals, similar model and procedure will be adopted there.

PPP opposes calling in army under Article 245

The PPP has strongly opposed hand-over of Islamabad to the army. Senator Farhatullah Babar, in a statement, said that the decision is pregnant with serious consequences for the people and country, as it means not only failure of the civil administration but also total suspension of the jurisdiction of the high courts.

"Worst still, in practical terms it also means setting up of military courts, which cannot be permitted," the statement read. It said the PPP has always opposed invoking Article 245 for calling army in aid of civil power whether it was in Karachi or other parts of the country. He said the situation in Islamabad is not any worse that in any other part of the country to warrant inviting security establishment to fix it by vesting in them powers beyond judicial oversight, he said.

"The government fails to recognise that if today it is Islamabad tomorrow Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, indeed the whole country, may have to be handed over to the army under Article 245 and practically dispense with the high courts. Bad as it already is the human rights situation in the country will get even worse as the doors of high courts are shut on the citizens," Baber said.

He said that the decision to hand over federal capital to the army will also send disturbing signals to the world about the prevailing security situation in the country.

"The decision reflects the penchant of PML-N government to lean on the security establishment for everything be it meter reading or tracing of ghost schools or appointing monitors and is most unfortunate." Babar said that it will further distort the already distorted civil-military equation.

End.

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