Army called in Islamabad

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army was called in Islamabad late Wednesday night under Article 245 by the PMLN government as it feared the situation would deteriorate while ex-prime minister Imran Khan and his supporters entered the capital and headed towards the Red Zone.

Earlier on Wednesday, large-scale skirmishes between the Punjab Police and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers erupted in the federal capital besides Punjab and Sindh capitals when the law-enforcers came into action to thwart the PTI’s plan to stage its Azadi March announced by party Chairman Imran Khan.

The notification issued by the government stated: “Pursuant to the law and order situation in the Islamabad Capital Terriotry, the Federal Government, in exercise of powers conferred under Article 245 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is pleased to authorize deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan Army in Red Zone in ICT in aid of civil power for protection of important government buildings, including Supreme Court of Pakistan, Parliament House, Presidency, Prime Minister’s Office/House, PTV HQs, Pakistan Secretariat and Diplomatic Enclave, subject to laws enforced in Pakistan, with immediate effect and until further orders.

The exact number of troops to be deployed will be worked out by the Pakistan Army authorities in consultation with ICT administration.” Prior to these developments, the PMLN-led coalition government softened its stand to an extent after the Supreme Court ordered it to provide space to the PTI for a jalsa in the federal capital. However, the police shelled protesters late in the evening when they reached D Chowk on the directions of party Chairman Imran Khan. The PTI chief had directed his party leaders and activists to reach the D Chowk, Islamabad, at all costs.

Commenting on the situation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vowed to foil all attempts to stage a sit-in in Islamabad, while PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz criticised the former prime minister for showing contempt to the Supreme Court orders on holding a public meeting between H-9 and G-9 areas of the federal capital.

Late in the evening, Imran Khan entered the Islamabad Capital Territory along with his caravan. Earlier in the day, after reaching Swabi, Imran Khan addressed the people heading towards the federal capital. He denied all reports of striking an agreement with the government. “We are heading towards Islamabad and there is no chance of an agreement with the coalition government.”

“We will stay in Islamabad until the government decides to dissolve the assemblies and announces election dates,” he reiterated, adding that they will reach the D Chowk and no hurdle could stop them. “All Pakistanis, women, children, families, youth, lawyers, retired army officers, everyone has to come out for real independence,” he said.

Saying that a peaceful protest was their legal right, Imran said they would reach the D Chowk in Islamabad by crossing all obstacles erected by the “imported government and slaves of the US”. As Imran appeared on the container, he was welcomed by the youngsters raising the slogan of “diesel, diesel,” making a reference to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) head Maulana Fazlur Rahman.

“During our government, Diesel [Maulana Fazlur Rahman], Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz marched towards Islamabad but we did not create any hurdles for them,” Imran said.About the government’s crackdown on the PTI leaders and workers in Punjab, he said, “The government arrested our people by climbing\ the boundary walls at night.” PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervez Khattak and others accompanied him on the container.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vowed to foil all sit-in plans of the PTI. Taking to his Twitter handle, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif wrote: “Politics of dharna is detrimental to progress [and] stability. It has been my conviction that Pakistan will progress only through sheer hard work. We are focused on overcoming the challenges of governance. Nothing can distract us from the task at hand.”

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