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regular-article-logo Monday, 17 June 2024

Imran Khan's supporters converge on Lahore's Liberty Chowk to launch protest march for fresh elections

The coalition government led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has made elaborate security arrangements to maintain peace

PTI Lahore Published 28.10.22, 04:03 PM
Imran Khan

Imran Khan File picture

Pakistan was tense on Friday as hundreds of supporters of Imran Khan's party gathered in Lahore as the former prime minister was all set to launch his protest march towards Islamabad to force the government to announce a date for early general elections.

Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) riding on their motorcycles and carrying party flags have assembled at the famous Liberty Chowk from where Khan would proceed towards the capital through the historic GT Road.

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Khan, 70, plans to arrive in Islamabad on November 4 and has sought formal permission from the government to allow his party to hold a protest rally. His party has billed the protest as a Haqiqi Azadi March' or a protest for actual freedom of the country.

It is not clear if he would go back after the rally or transform it into a sit-in on the pattern of his 2014 protest when a 126-day sit-in was staged by his followers in front of the parliament building.

The organisers had announced to start the march at 11 am but it was delayed and it was not clear when exactly it would begin.

The coalition government led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has made elaborate security arrangements to maintain peace while warning the PTI that any effort to create a law and order situation would be dealt with an "iron hand", Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters in Islamabad.

He warned that strict action will be taken if they attempt to break the law and create a law-and-order situation in the capital, he said, adding that the Supreme Court's orders regarding the protest were clear. If protesters abide by the law, we will facilitate them, he said.

In response, PTI secretary general Asad Umar told the media in Lahore that the protest would be peaceful and from now on all decisions will be taken by the people . He said that the party decided to dedicate the march to slain journalist Arshad Sharif.

The country was grappling with different versions about the killing of journalist Sharif in Kenya and indirect allegations against the armed forces.

Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was with Umar at the presser, urged the public to take part in the protest. "You should take part in this march even if you do not belong to the PTI. The nation must reject decisions taken behind closed doors," he said.

The government rejected the march and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the nation had refused to be subservient to a "foreign-funded" instigator and had rejected the "bloody march".

As the PTI planned protest was about to begin, the stocks fell by over 200 points during early trade and the benchmark KSE-100 index lost 228.54 points, or 0.55 per cent, to reach 41,374.32 points by the middy.

Earlier, Khan in a video message said that the protest was not for personal or political interests but to attain actual freedom for the country . Khan has been demanding early elections and threatening a protest march towards Islamabad to force his demands if the government failed to give a date for elections.

The term of the National Assembly will end in August 2023 and fresh elections should be held within 60 days.

Khan, who was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, has talked about a 'threat letter' from the US and claimed that it was part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him as he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy. The US has bluntly rejected the allegations.

According to officials, the interior ministry has already decided to deploy around 30,000 police, rangers, and para-military troops in Islamabad and not allow protesters to enter the red-zone area near the parliament building.

The President's House, Prime Minister's House, ministers' offices, parliament, and other important buildings, including foreign embassies, are located in the red-zone area.

The march's commencement date was announced on Tuesday by Khan. We will gather at Liberty Chowk at 11am on Friday, and set off for Islamabad, he had said.

We will stay peaceful. If any disruption comes, it would be from the other side, not ours. We are aiming for a soft revolution. We are not going to Islamabad to create any mischief, Khan assured, adding that despite all his peaceful intentions he was ready for arrest as well.

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