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PTI-PAT Marchers Camping Outside Parliament

Posted by on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 13:12
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With party leader Imran Khan leading form the front, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) marchers abetted by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) protestors barged into federal capital’s heavily guarded ‘Red Zone’ and gathered outside the Parliament House defying government warnings of a crackdown, media reported.

PTI-PAT Marchers

PTI-PAT Marchers

On top of physical barriers like hulking multistoried walls of shipping containers, which were literally brushed aside by the marchers in a matter of hours, large contingents of police, Frontier Corps, Rangers, and regular troops have been deployed to safeguard the key government buildings including the Parliament House of Pakistan.

Triple-1 Brigade

Pakistan Army’s 111th Brigade is guarding Parliament House. Interestingly, this unit, also known as Triple-1 Brigade, is notable for its frequent involvement and fast response in military coup d’etats since Pakistan’s independence. As of 11 January 2012, Brigadier Sarfaraz Ali is in command of this group. Samaa has learnt that about 700 soldiers of this brigade are positioned in ‘Red Zone.’

Confluence of PTI-PAT Marches

Shortly after the PTI leader Imran Khan kicked off the march, thousands of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) protestors joined PTI marchers at Islamabad’s Abpara Chowk to form one big massive throng heading towards ‘Red Zone’.

Cranes & Cutters

PTI marchers used cranes as well as heavy-duty bolt-cutters to remove the shipping containers placed on the roads leading to ‘Red Zone’ to continue barreling ahead.

Khan Bucks Up Team

“Heave-ho, Heave-ho, get us going. You can do it. Move it, move it. See, this is the power of people”, Khan ordered his marchers while speaking from his mobile podium set up on an a flatbed trailer.

Sources told Samaa that there were at least three layers of shipping containers standing between the marchers and ‘Red Zone.’

Cops Ordered To Hold Back

According to latest reports, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has directed the security personnel not to use brute force against the protestors.

“Securitymen have been officially told to exercise utmost restraint until further orders”, sources told Samaa.

There was no word on the last-resort orders for the cops, paramilitary troops, or soldiers if a flashpoint was reached.

Islamabad Under Fresh Lockdown

At one hand the government is trying its best to avoid riots by giving a conciliatory leeway to the marchers, but on the other authorities have also been ordered to lock down the federal capital by sealing all the exit and entry points, most likely in a bid to stop the influx of fresh PTI/PAT supporters from across the country.

Protestors Camp Outside Parliament

The protesters reached the Islamabad parliament building in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but did not immediately go inside. As per latest reports protesters have started camping outside the building of legislative assembly.

Army For Negotiated Settlement

In a belated but bold reaction to the prevailing political crisis, Pakistan Army early Wednesday morning said that all the stakeholders should patiently join their heads together to find a key to this deadlock as soon as possible, Samaa reported.

“Situation requires patience, wisdom, sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest”, DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a post that appeared on the social media website Twitter.

Bajwa further tweeted that: “Buildings in Red Zone are symbol of state. They are being protected by Pakistan Army, therefore sanctity of these national symbols must be respected.”

This unexpected late-night intervention from the military, which is hugely influential in Pakistan, came after marchers reached Parliament House and Khan issued an ultimatum demanding Sharif resign by Wednesday evening.

Enter The Khan

Imran Khan, who had vowed to lead the marchers, was late because he never got off his ride. He along with other PTI leaders arrived in the D-Chowk around 03:00 AM (Wednesday) as the flatbed trailer hauling his podium-cum-caravan container took long enough to make its way through thousands of hotfooting marchers to reach the Parliament House.

Capital Remains On The Edge

Islamabad has been bracing for possible clashes after Khan pledged to lead his supporters in a march on the Pakistani capital’s high security government district, in a high-stakes bid to depose the prime minister.

Khan, the former cricket star who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, says last year’s general election was rigged and has demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign.

Thousands of Khan’s followers have protested in Islamabad over the past five days to demand Sharif quit, piling pressure on the government little more than a year since its landslide victory.

The protests come as Pakistan’s armed forces wage an offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest and as the government tries to boost a flagging economy.

Double Trouble

Populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who also seeks to topple the government, synched his own protest with Khan’s to double the trouble for Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Mass support for the protest movement beyond Khan and Qadri’s core supporters appears to be lacking and other opposition parties have shunned Khan’s call to unseat the government.

Newspapers and business leaders have also criticized Khan’s tactics, which on Sunday included a call for “civil disobedience”.

With Khan looking isolated, on Monday PTI made a dramatic double roll of the dice to try to re-energize its campaign.

First the party announced it would resign all of its seats in parliament and three out of four provincial assemblies.

Then Khan pledged to lead the protesters in a march on Islamabad’s high-security “red zone”, which houses key buildings including parliament, the prime minister’s house and numerous Western embassies.

The area has been cordoned off with shipping containers and heavily guarded by security personnel since the protests began, setting the stage for possible clashes if Khan goes through with his pledge.

At the protest site, where a few thousand demonstrators tried to find shelter from the hot sun, PTI activists struck a defiant tone.

“We will march and stage the next sit-in in front of the parliament house,” said Bilal Arshad, 20.

“We are not ready to listen to anyone except our chairman. We just want the resignation of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is a symbol of corruption and bad governance.”

Fellow protester Naeem Kazmi said the crowd was ready to “reply in a fitting way” if violence erupted.

Find A Political Solution

The government on Monday began efforts to find a negotiated resolution to the protests, and planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday urged Khan to talk.

“The whole political leadership is united for this. All opposition parties are trying to engage them and find out a political solution,” Iqbal told reporters.

“You have a few thousand crazy guys but 180 million people who have elected this government are guarantors of this government.”

Last week Sharif tried to head off the protests by setting up a judicial commission to investigate rigging allegations, but Khan dismissed the proposal immediately.

The government has also set up a parliamentary committee to look at electoral reform.

At a joint press conference of all opposition parties except PTI, Khurshid Shah, a senior figure in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) urged Khan to come to the negotiating table.

The general election of May 2013 which swept Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party to power — and brought PTI its best-ever result — was rated as free and credible by international observers but both Khan and Qadri insist it was fixed.

The European Union issued a statement voicing its support for democracy in Pakistan — and linking it to a highly-prized trade deal.

“The European Union Delegation underlines its conviction that the Constitution of Pakistan provides the legitimate framework for dialogue to resolve the current impasse,” the statement said.

Enhanced trade privileges extended to Islamabad were “the ultimate reflection of the EU’s strong commitment to the economic prosperity of a democratic Pakistan.”

The PML-N has accused Khan of trying to derail Pakistan’s perennially fragile democratic system.

The nuclear-armed country has experienced three military coups and the latest crisis has triggered more speculation about possible intervention by the powerful armed forces.

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