Govt to allow 'Azadi March'

– strategy deviced to tackle Marchers

By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to give conditional permission to the opposition parties willing to organise ‘Azadi March’ in Islamabad on October 27.
The permission will be given in view of the verdicts given by the Supreme Court (SC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC). It is decided to allow the opposition parties for holding protest march which must comply with the orders given in the previous verdicts of the courts.
The dialogue committee constituted by the federal government called on Prime Minister Imran Khan today where its members informed the premier regarding their contacts with the leadership of opposition parties, sources said. The committee members said that they will approach opposition leaders for holding dialogues before the organisation of October 27 demonstration.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, who is leading the committee, expressed hopes that the opposition will accept the offers for negotiations. PM Khan has directed the dialogue committee to remain engaged in talks with the opposition leadership, sources said, adding that the verdicts of courts are present regarding the protests in the federal capital.
The premier said that the strategy for the implementation of the court’s decisions will be finalised by the interior ministry.
On October 3, JamiatUlema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief MaulanaFazlurRehman had announced that the “Azadi March” will begin on October 27 after staging protest demonstration to express solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Meanwhile, The government has devised a strategy to tackle the ‘Azadi March’ announced by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
The government will implement a strategy in three phases, sources said. In the first phase the government’s negotiating committee will hold talks with the opposition and in case of failure
of negotiations a crackdown will be launched for arrests at district and divisional levels, according to sources.
Finally, the administration will use the option of force in third stage as the last resort to thwart the protest, sources added. The protest rallies at the inter-provincial roads will not be allowed .
It is pertinent to mention here that containers are already being provided at various highways of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and capital city of Islamabad to thwart the participants of the opposition azadi march.
Punjab Police department has cancelled leaves of its employees and containers being supplied at various highways in the province. The government has delegated special powers to deputy commissioners including registration of cases under charges of instigating for mutiny and other serious charges. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa containers have been placed to close strategic Attockbridge. Moreover, law enforcement personnel have been deployed at central highway of Malakand, while Sawabi Interchange of the motorway will be blocked if required, officials said.
Moreover, Balochistan government has also warned against the azadi march in the province.
Provincial Home Minister has said that the circumstances in province were not conducive for allowing people to come to roads, warning action by the state if its writ will be challenged.
Agencies adds: The Islamabad police has placed containers to block off the capital city’s NADRA and Serena roundabouts in order to secure the Red Zone, as the government on Wednesday decided to let the anti-government protesters of Azadi March proceed to the capital territory “as long as parameters laid out by courts for lawful protest are not breached”.
Reportedly, the Red Zone will be cordoned off with barbed wire and water cannons will be deployed to block protesters’ entry. All entry and exit points of the city will also be sealed, police officials said, adding that Islamabad residents who plan to join the protest will be restricted to their districts.
A security plan has been devised by authorities, according to which Islamabad will be divided into three layers of security. Police personnel will be deployed in the first zone, Frontier Corps in the second and Rangers in the third. Earlier in the day, the government decided to let the anti-government march protesters enter Islamabad.
The decision was made after a team delegated to negotiate with the joint opposition’s Rehbar Committee presented its recommendations to the prime minister.
A brief statement issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said: “It was decided that the government, with its firm belief in upholding democratic ideals, would allow the proposed Azadi March, if it takes place within the ambit of law and the Constitution as interpreted in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court.”
“The prime minister believes in the democratic right to protest,” a spokesperson for PMO said.
Meanwhile, the committee formed by the prime minister to hold talks with the opposition rejected Rehbar Committee’s demand for the premier’s resignation.
According to sources, the rejection came during a meeting of the government’s committee headed by Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak and comprises of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Speaker Punjab Assembly Pervaiz Elahi, Asad Umer, Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood, and Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri.
According to reports, the committee reiterated that the government recognizes the opposition’s right to peaceful protest but a march towards federal capital is inadvisable amid the current situation of the country and the region, adding that the government is serious about resolving issues through dialogue.
It has emerged that the committee has decided to hold a meeting with the joint opposition in addition to a sperate meeting with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif. “Senate Chairman SadiqSanjrani has been tasked to contact PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” sources said while Speaker Punjab Assembly PervaizElahi will contact JUI-F Chief Fazal-ur-Rehman who called upon him at his Lahore residence last week.