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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan was informed about the Supreme Court’s order that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) hold a rally in an area between Sector H-9 and G-9, Islamabad, but the party’s top leadership urged workers to converge at the D-Chowk of the federal capital.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Islamabad, submitted a report on Friday. The intelligence agencies including the ISI and the IB have also filed their reports in the Supreme Court detailing the events leading to the PTI workers’ arrival at D-Chowk during the party’s “Azadi March” which ended on May 26.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on June 1 had called reports from the IGP ICT, secretary Ministry of Interior, DGs IB and ISI on the factual aspects of the PTI’s long march on May 25, wherein, properties damaged and trees were set on fire.

However, Justice Yahya Afridi, in his separate note, stated: “Instead of calling for reports from the named officials of the State Agencies/Departments, as directed by my learned brother (CJP), I am of the opinion that there is sufficient material before this Court to proceed against Imran Khan for the alleged disobedience of the court order dated 25.05.2022.” “It also warrants the issuance of notice by the SC to Imran Khan to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him,” he added.

According to the IGP report, Imran Khan on May 25, in a video message near Chach Interchange, Attock, had “acknowledged the Supreme Court’s judgement but called upon the public to reach D-Chowk”. “He [Imran Khan] also added that he will also try to reach D-Chowk in an hour or so. The message was telecast on mainstream media channels at 7:38pm. The announcement was also made at 9:54pm after crossing the Attock bridge,” it stated.

The reports said that party leaders, including Saifullah Niazi and Zartaj Gul etc, were urging the workers on social media to reach D-Chowk to welcome PTI Chairman Imran Khan. “In their social media posts from 7:54pm on May 25, Fawad Chaudhry, Saifullah Niazi and Zartaj Gul kept on urging workers to reach D-Chowk for welcoming Imran Khan.” Their videos were also attached with the reports.

The report said that no police officers stopped the protesters from moving towards the assigned avenue of the rally as the police officers were told to withdraw to the Red Zone. At the G-9 and H-9 venues, barricades were also removed, it added.

The protesters, the police said, managed to remove containers near China Chowk and Express Chowk. Moreover, none of the protesters reached the H-9 and G-9 venues, it further highlighted, adding that they all marched to D-Chowk.

The report also mentioned that the PTI had initially informed the administration that he wanted to gather his party workers at the Srinagar Highway, between the H-9 and G-9 area. But later, “Imran Khan in a video message announced to (sic) reach D-Chowk via Srinagar Highway and urged party workers/supporters to join him”.

The report said that the police had closed all the roads leading to D-Chowk on May 25, after the court issued orders allowing the PTI to stage its protest at Islamabad’s H-9.

“After the decision of the Supreme Court, police, Rangers and FC were directed to show maximum restraint and they stopped any further action so that the protesters could reach the G-9/H-9 area. However, groups of people led by the leaders kept on moving towards D-Chowk on Jinnah Avenue which is a different route than Srinagar Highway. Police and LEAs moved back towards Red Zone as per direction of the police command.”

The report claimed that the protesters “had come motivated” to cross the barriers and “confront the police and LEAs as per the directions of their leadership”. They were armed with wooden sticks and pelted stones at the LEAs, it said, adding that they were also “using vehicles to run over police officers”, who were “only having batons to push the protesters”.

Heavy machinery, it pointed out, was also used to remove containers and barriers. The protesters also set trees and bushes ablaze and “mounted on containers”. “At 7:30pm, the protesters pushed away the containers placed near China Chowk at Jinnah Avenue and cleared the way for their vehicles and expected a larger rally,” the report further said. It continued that the police had to resort to tear gas and shelling to prevent them from entering the Red Zone.

In the meantime, a group of “approximately 2,000 party workers led by Imran Ismail, Saifullah Niazi, Zartaj Gul and others” gathered near the Islamabad Stock Exchange building at Jinnah Avenue, the report said. “They made several attempts to cross the first layer of containers at the edge of the Red Zone and intrude into the Red Zone but they were repelled by the LEAs through use of tear gas shelling.”

However, the report said, the containers were moved by the protesters early morning the next day, May 26. “At 8:05am, PTI workers whose total number at the Express Chowk at that time was 1,000-1,500 approximately, pushed down the upper layer of the second stack of containers after the Express Chowk and inside the Red Zone.” Rangers and police personnel were present in the venue, it said, but ‘applied full restraint’ and did not resort to coercive actions to stop their entry. The Rangers and police personnel, subsequently constituted a layered formation to stop protesters from further movement towards Parliament and other sensitive buildings, the police report revealed. The protesters did not march any further, and the police did not resort to tear gas or other coercive measures, it added.

The report said that there was no provocation or any such thing from the government’s side or law enforcement. “It was announced time and again through social and electronic media to stay away from the Red Zone by the police/LEAs, administration, and the political leadership.”

It added that the police had chalked out a plan for deployment of the force on orders of the top court and the police provided free access to the rally near H-9 and G-9 area.

The Islamabad police replied that it had taken lawful, necessary and proportionate steps to disperse the crowd marching towards D-Chowk. “The police only employed defensive, anti-riot measures to maintain law and order, but the protesters were charged and adamant to move to the Red Zone. During the stone pelting by protesters and resistance put up by them 23 LEAs personnel were injured in ICT.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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