Nerves are on edge as the federal capital braces for a political showdown on Sunday (today), as the ruling PTI is going all-out to make its Amr Bil Maroof public meeting a success amid mounting pressure from the opposition, which is also marching on Islamabad before the vote on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Workers and leaders of the JUI-F, under the banner of the opposition alliance PDM, have already come to take the stage on the Srinagar Highway while PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, along with Punjab opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz was leading her party caravan via GT Road to the capital, calling it the last nail in the coffin of the PTI government.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has already warned the JUI-F that it would not be permitted to hold a sit-in in Islamabad, as they had been allowed to hold the public meeting on Saturday only and they would need to submit another request if they wanted to hold a rally on Sunday, too.
He also cautioned that no party would be allowed to enter Red Zone and action would be taken against those who attempted to take the law into their hands by blocking another party’s route or by holding a sit-in in violation of Supreme Court directions. He said the interior ministry would cooperate with opposition parties in connection with their upcoming rallies and no-confidence vote and provide full security to “all their lawmakers”.
SECURITY: Rashid said the Srinagar Highway had been handed over to Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps, saying that in all 15,000 personnel would be performing security duty. Besides, the government had the authority to call the army under Article 245 of the Constitution, if need be, but hoped the situation would not reach a point where the ministry was compelled to extreme measures, he said.
Meanwhile, PTI workers also started turning up in the twin cities from different parts of the country to reach the Parade Ground, where the stage has been set for the party’s grand power show amid the allegations levelled by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that the ruling party received its funding from other countries to bring people on streets.
CONSPIRACY: “A conspiracy is being hatched to cause bloodshed on the streets of Islamabad,” PPP Senators Palwasha Khan and Rubina Khalid told a press conference. The PPP had lately also advised other opposition parties against holding a sit-in in the capital to avoid clashes.
Senator Khan said: “Threats are coming from countries, like India and Israel, from where funding for the PTI had come. And, it is being spent on a public meeting.” According to her, it was not the job of the interior minister to lead a procession against the opposition. “The interior minister will be responsible for all situations,” she said, advising the ruling PTI to face the no-confidence motion in a constitutional way.
MEDIA: For what is being claimed as ‘historic jalsa’, which would be addressed by Prime Minister Khan, a PTI spokesperson on Saturday evening announced that the media professionals would not be allowed to use professional cameras to record the event as “cameras pose a security risk”.
The PTI rally organisers and media crew exchanged arguments when the latter was told that cameras of private TV channels would not be allowed due to the “security protocol” of the prime minister but they would be allowed to use their mobile phones for footage and photos. The photojournalists decided to lodge a complaint to the media bodies against the PTI attitude.
When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary later said that efforts were being made with the relevant authorities to facilitate the media. “We have always assisted media persons to execute their duties and a separate enclosure has been established for local as well as international media,” he claimed.
Prime Minister Khan earlier announced that the gathering of his supporters would not be less than a million. After that ‘public show’, the PTI leaders believe that the pressure of a no-confidence motion against the premier would defuse.
PML-N MARCH: Earlier in the day, the PML-N’s anti-inflation long march kicked off from party’s main secretariat in Lahore’s Model Town with its leadership hoping that it would prove the last nail in the coffin of the Imran government which was facing a no-trust move.
Led by deposed Maryam and Hamza, the rally was heading at a snail’s pace towards its destination in Islamabad where it would join the nine-party alliance PDM caravans to hold a public meeting. The PML-N said the PDM’s long march could stay in the capital for two or more days depending on the political situation despite the interior minister’s warning that the opposition would not be permitted to extend its stay.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court on Saturday warned the JUI-F against violating conditions of the no-objection certificate for holding a public gathering under the PDM banner and directed the capital administration to act against violators in accordance with law. The organisers of the JUI-F public gathering assured the capital administration that they would follow the terms and conditions of the NOC in letter and spirit.
Along the route to Islamabad, PML-N workers had set up reception camps at different points where they danced to the tune of party songs as their leader waved to them. “We have covered hardly a few kilometres in four hours because of a large number of participants,” Maryam Nawaz said, adding that PM Imran had already lost power and only a ‘formal announcement’ was to be made. “His cries are the herald of his departure. Once the long march reaches the capital the departure of the selected regime will be announced,” she said, predicting difficult times ahead for him. “Once he is out of power, his corruption stories will come to the fore and evidence be presented. I stand by my claim that billions of rupees have been made in transfers and postings by those who have direct links with the Banigala (residence of Imran Khan) which is a mother of all scandals,” she said.
TALKS WITH PML-Q: Talking to a private news channel, Maryam and Hamza said the opposition’s talks with one of the government allies PML-Q, were going on and because of the public pressure, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat would take side with it (opposition).
Asked if the PML-N leadership had refused to make Chaudhry Parvez Elahi chief minister in Punjab, Maryam Nawaz said: “No such decision has been taken as yet. The allies will join the opposition knowing the ground realities.”
Hamza said the opposition had been in contact with the PML-Q. “After the success of the no-trust move against Imran Khan, the next target of the opposition is Punjab,” he said.