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Marchers to jolt Capital today

ISLAMABAD: The anti-government Azadi March caravan being led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman will enter Islamabad tomorrow during daytime.

Sources privy with the matter told the media on Wednesday that the marchers would move towards Gujjar Khan tonight, and the leadership would take the decision about spending the night after consultation. Importantly, the long march will not move towards Rawalpindi and instead will enter Islamabad.

Containers placed on many highways in Punjab have been removed for the marchers to proceed. The demonstrators have been holding party flags and chanting full-throat slogans against the government.

The representatives of the opposition parties including JUI-F, PPP, PML-N, Awami National Party (ANP) and others will announce the next course of action upon entering the federal capital, according to the announcement made by the leadership.

Thousands of people, including seminary students, are participating in the march. In addition, dozens of convoys representing various opposition political parties, including PPP, PML-N, ANP and others, have joined the march.

The traders associations, who have called for a two-day nationwide strike against the government’s “anti-traders” policies, established camps at Multan Chungi and Yateem Khana. Furthermore, traders’ bodies have warned the government of prolonging the strike if their demands were not met.

The march en route to Islamabad took public attention all the way through Hyderabad, Hala Mutyari, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Sukkur, Multan and reached Lahore in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Political workers of the opposition parties have been welcoming the marchers in every city they have been passing through.

On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister UsmanBuzdar on Wednesday has

summoned a high-level meeting to review law and order situation in the province. The meeting will analyse certain issues pertaining to providing security to the protesters participating in the Azadi March.

Besides, measures taken by the law enforcement agencies whose officials have been assigned duties at various welcome camps of the marchers will be considered. Following the nearly inflexible negotiations with the government on Saturday night, the Azadi March began from Karachi where the JUI-F finalised arrangements to kick off massive demonstrations against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Fazl had addressed massive gathering of the protesters at Sohrab Goth, and lashed out at the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for what he claimed “compromise” on the Kashmir dispute. “We don’t accept the [general] elections held on July 25 and its results […] Imran Khan must resign,” he had said. “The people of Karachi have responded to our call, I thank them for it […] I appreciate workers of all [opposition] political parties,” he had added.

“The government has resorted to uncivilised tactics […] after Hafiz Hamdullah’s matter of citizenship, they have arrested Mufti Kifayatullah.” All buses and other vehicles have been transported to the specified spots for facilitating protesters. The firebrand politician has been given every facility in his container so he could address the rallies at different points during the march. On late Saturday, the government and the opposition’s Rehbar Committee struck a deal after entering into tough talks and breaking the earlier deadlock.

According to the terms and conditions of the Azadi March, the protesters will not enter into Islamabad’s Red Zone and instead will culminate their demonstration in H-9 area in Sunday bazaar grounds. During a press conference after talks, government’s negotiation committee head and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak recalled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise that the participants will see no obstacles from the government as long as the protest remains peaceful.

According to the agreement, the government will not stand in the protesters’ way and neither will the participants face any difficulty in getting food delivered.

Importantly, the participants will not be allowed to venture far from the designated venue, whereas the responsibility of the internal security will lie with the organisers. The leaders further pointed out that in case of a violation of the terms and conditions, and damage to lives or property, the relevant action as per the law will be taken. Thousands of policemen have been tasked to prepare for any untoward situation and maintain law and order situation in the capital city. Police had held a drill to perform anti-riot exercises and learnt how to use water cannons to disperse protesters. Effective security measures have been formulated for the safeguarding Faizabad Interchange and other entry points, including Rawat and Tarnol.

Ajmal Khan Yousafzai adds: The government’s committee formed to hold talks with opposition called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday. Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, who heads the committee, told the prime minister that the opposition stands by its agreement with government.  Apprising the prime minister about the progress in talks, he said his committee was in constant touch with the opposition parties. The prime minister said his government would also abide by the agreement if the opposition stands by it,adding that action would be taken against the opposition if the agreement was violated. He also directed the committee to ensure that citizens of Islamabad do not face problems due to the Azadi March. The prime minister had set up a seven-member committee under Khattak to persuade MaulanaFazlurRehman to cancel his Azadi March that is scheduled to enter Islamabad on October 31.

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