Pakistan's SC tells authorities: Provide PTI alternate site for "Azadi March"
The judges gave a deadline for the commissioner to come up with a plan to let them hold its rally in a peaceful manner as it also directed PTI's lawyer to "sit at the negotiating table" with officials
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the authorities to provide an alternate place to the supporters of ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party for their "Azadi March" protest so that they can demonstrate and then go home.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Ahsan, and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi made the directions while hearing a petition filed on Tuesday by Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) President Mohammad Shoaib Shaheen.
The petitioner asked the court to intervene to remove blockades placed in the capital to derail the protest march called by ousted prime minister Imran Khan.
After hearing arguments, the bench ordered the chief commissioner of Islamabad to provide an alternate site for rally to the PTI workers and also create a traffic plan for protesters.
"Let them protest and then go home," Justice Ahsan said, adding that the court expected the government "to remove barricades". The judges gave a 2.30 pm (local time) deadline for the commissioner to come up with the plan to let the ousted party hold its rally in a peaceful manner as it also directed PTI's lawyer Faisal Chaudhry to "sit at the negotiating table" with the administration officials.
The bench gave the lawyer time till 2:20 pm to get instructions from the party leadership. The court also directed the interior secretary and police to review their policies on road closures. The court also asked the administration to get an assurance from the PTI that the protest would be peaceful.
Justice Ahsan said political parties had their own interests but they were secondary to the country and the people.
Meanwhile, the long march towards Islamabad on Wednesday started from Wali Interchange on the M-2 Motorway in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, accompanied by hundreds of his supporters, has been leading the march mounting on a truck. Khan flew from Peshawar to Wali Interchange in the Mardan area on a helicopter.
According to latest reports, Khan has reached Karnal Sher Khan Interchange on the M-2 near Swabi town of the province. His caravan of protestors will have to overcome barricades at different places before reaching Islamabad.
Pakistani authorities on Tuesday blocked roads and arrested several supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday in a bid to derail the protest march called by the ousted prime minister. The government on Tuesday banned their rally to prevent the PTI supporters from "propagating their misleading agenda".
On Saturday, the cricketer-turned-politician had asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and hold fresh elections in the country.
Pakistan's coalition government, however, has rejected the demand of Khan, 69, saying the new government will complete its tenure and hold the polls next year. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's coalition government initially allowed the protest, but on Tuesday refused to give permission, fearing violence and lawlessness in the wake of the march.
On Wednesday, a crackdown started in various cities and police arrested hundreds of PTI workers and some of its leaders to stop them from joining the protest known as "Azadi March". The government also imposed Section 144 to ban big gatherings in Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and Karachi, as well as other major cities.