ISLAMABAD: Protests, shelling, baton charge and then more protests in Islamabad and its twin city created an uncertain for the entire country on Friday.
Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and opposition leader Imran Khan accused the government of placing him under a ‘virtual house arrest’ in Bani Gala in Islamabad.
Normal life in the capital and Rawalpindi on Friday remained tensed as police charged stone-throwing protesters with batons and fired tear gas at the supporters, who had come out onto the streets to demonstrate against arrests made the previous night after authorities banned all public gatherings in the capital for two months.
A huge number of the forces surrounded PTI Chairman’s residence in Bani Gala and Awami Muslim League’s (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed’s Lal Haveli in Rawalpindi with containers blocking the entire city.
There have been several reports of injuries in both the cities. Intense shelling by police officials in Rawalpindi claimed the life of a three-day-old toddler in Liaquat Bagh neighbourhood due to suffocation
Both sides, PTI and Sheikh Rasheed’s Awami Muslim League (AML) prepared for Khan’s plan to shutdown the capital next week to try to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.
Analyst says that the protests added to rising political tension ahead of Khan’s vow to lock down the capital on November 2 to try to force Sharif to quit because of corruption allegations.
Situation in Bani Gala
“To all my activists, you have to prepare for Nov. 2, you have to escape capture,” Imran Khan insisted on Saturday while speaking to his supporters outside his residence in Bani Gala who have set up camps apparently to support and protect their party leadership from police patrolling in the vicinity.
Speaking to his workers, Khan said on Friday the government just saw a practice match; the real match would be on November 2.
Khan’s latest challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is based on leaked documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm that appear to show that his daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Sharif’s family have been denying wrongdoings without any evidence.
Sheikh Rashid’s show
Sheikh Rasheed, a key ally of PTI, cancelled a planned rally but joined his supporters in the streets of Rawalpindi after tricking police officials.
Television footage showed the AML leader being ferried to the rally on the back of a motorbike through the narrow side streets of Rawalpindi.
He then climbed on top of a van, shook his fist in the air to supporters and dared police to arrest him.
However, police said they had no intention to arrest him as they did not have orders for his arrest.
Authorities blocked main roads leading to the Rawalpindi rally with shipping containers and obstructed the rally site with trucks and containers, keeping PTI supporters from gathering there en masse.
Ban on gatherings
Imran Khan on Friday called for nationwide protests on after several PTI activists were arrested a day earlier during a raided an indoor youth convention in Islamabad by baton-wielding police.
Police said the rally contravened an Islamabad High Court (IHC) order issued hours earlier that banned all public gatherings in Islamabad and Rawalpindi ahead of next week’s protests.
However, Chairman PTI, who led a weeks-long occupation that paralysed the government quarter of Islamabad in 2014 after rejecting Sharif’s decisive election win, has vowed to contest orders banning public gatherings in court.
Vow to freeze Islamabad
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmed said PTI would need an official permission, in the form of a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC), to host any events, including Wednesday’s shutdown strike.
“You need an NOC for anything – whether it’s a media function or a marriage function. Even for a birthday party of more than five people, you need an NOC,” he said.
Imran Khan has said November 2 grand protests would bring a million people onto the streets and sit-ins would force the closure of schools, public offices and the main international airport.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has dismissed Khan’s shutdown plan as his desperate move ahead of the next general election in 2018.
“Pakistan is going towards becoming a developed country, and the opposition is worried that if this system of development continues until 2018, then by then their politics will be finished,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a gathering of party workers on Friday.