Tension gripped parts of the country, as police clashed with Pakistan PTI workers after authorities tried to block them from proceedings towards the capital, where former prime minister Imran Khan plans to hold a large political rally.
Khan is heading to Islamabad from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a large caravan to demand the removal of the government and an immediate national election. He vows to hold the “biggest march” in the political history of Pakistan if the government does not agree to his demands. According to the latest update, Khan’s caravan has entered Punjab after supporters removed barricades from the Attock bridge.
Earlier today, following the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the two sides also engaged in a two-hour dialogue, but no breakthrough could be reached, reported Geo News.
However, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb has denied reports of an agreement between the federal government and the PTI, calling the news “baseless”.
Meanwhile, Senator Faisal Javed also confirmed that no agreement has been reached.
Throughout the day, scuffles continue to break out in parts of Lahore, Punjab, between the police and the political workers, leading to the arrest of a few PTI leaders in the city.
In the meantime, law enforcement agencies are also on high alert under instructions from the government to take “all possible measures” to stop the PTI’s ‘Azadi March’ from proceeding.
SC orders govt to provide PTI with a ground for jalsa
The Supreme Court directed the federal government to provide the PTI with the ground between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad to hold its public gathering.
When the hearing resumed after a break, the attorney-general told the three-member bench that the ground, which will be given to the PTI, only had the capacity to accommodate 10,000 people.
He also added that a Sunday bazaar and the Sirinigar Highway were close to the venue.
Hammad Azhar sustain injuries
Amid the shelling, former energy minister Hammad Azhar was also injured and was provided with basic medical treatment at a rural health clinic.
Taking to his official Twitter handle, the senior PTI leader recorded a video message claiming that the police have now resorted to direct attacks.
Earlier, in order to restrain Lahore’s rally from entering Islamabad, the police tried to arrest Azhar; however, party workers managed to save him.
Police arrested the district president of PTI Ali Asjad Malhi, among other party workers from Sialkot. The authorities managed to disperse the workers with the help of tear gas.
On his Twitter handle, Azhar wrote: “Heavy shelling on our rally near Kala Shah Kaku. But we will InshAllah overcome this obstacle too.”
The PTI leader had confirmed that failed attempts were being made for his arrest. He had also reported that the police have abused the workers and hundreds of shells had been fired.
Keep routes to hospitals open: interior minister
Amid the ongoing clashes in the federal capital, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had directed the Islamabad police and administration to allow all government employees on duty to enter the federal capital. Meanwhile, he said media persons shouldn’t be stopped and routes heading towards hospitals should remain open.
In a statement, the interior minister said that the government will not tolerate terrorism in the guise of politics as police seized a huge cache of weapons from the residence of PTI leader in the provincial capital of Punjab ahead of their long march.
“The seizure of heavy arms and ammunition from the houses of PTI officials is evidence of a bloody march”, the federal minister had said.
The federal minister said that the PTI general secretary’s house is a depot of ammunition and the discovery of arms from the homes of PTI officials is proof of a bloody march. The nation has seen that from where did the bullet came which killed innocent police personnel.
“The constitution and the law will be strictly enforced and those who will take the law into their hands will be dealt with strictly,” he warned.
Meanwhile, after various attempts to arrest PTI leaders, Lahore police briefly detained Yasmeen Rashid and Andaleeb Abbasi. Both leaders were taken into custody as PTI workers tried to stop the law enforcers. They were, however, later released.
At Lahore’s Batti Chowk, the police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse PTI workers when they removed barriers placed to block the routes.
The PTI’s Lahore chapter had asked its workers to gather at the Batti Chowk today from where they were to depart for Islamabad.
The party workers gathered at the intersection and clashed with the police when they removed barriers after which the police fired tear gas shells in order to clear the area.
Arrests so far
The police have so far arrested more than 10 PTI workers from Batti Chowk; meanwhile, police confirmed that some marchers have also been arrested from the Srinagar Highway. PTI workers have also been arrested from D-Chowk.
A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, told Geo.tv, on condition of anonymity, that 212 PTI workers arrested so far in Lahore.
In a press conference, DIG Operations Lahore Sohail Chaudhry said that in the last few days the police had information that weapons were being brought to Lahore, which could be used to disturb the peace.
The senior cop said the police chased five cars near the motorway and then raided the home of Zubair Niazi, the PTI general secretary in Lahore. “At his home we found weapons. It seems apparent they were planning to use these weapons in the march,” he adds.
Meanwhile, police have arrested a total of nine PTI workers from Numaish Chowrangi, including three women.
Police attack Yasmeen Rashid’s car
The police attacked former health minister Yasmeen Rashid’s car, breaking her windscreen in an attempt to stop her from moving forward.
According to footage circulating on social media, the police used batons to stop her; however, the car continued to move ahead despite losing balance.
Earlier, the police had encircled her car when a PTI supporter came forward and verbally abused the officials. Meanwhile, Yasmeen tried stopping the police from taking away her car keys.
Meanwhile, Rashid in a statement, confirmed that the windshield of her vehicle was broken by the police. She said that she faced difficulty in leaving the area, but is now on the way to Islamabad.
“This government has lost its senses. I am an 80-year-old woman. Why are they threatening me? How is stopping a peaceful protest democratic?” she questioned.
Rashid added that despite everything, the enthusiasm of the workers was better than ever.
‘No chance of deal with govt’: Imran Khan
After reaching Swabi, PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressed the people heading toward the federal capital. In it, he denied all reports of striking an agreement with the government. “We are heading towards Islamabad and there is no chance of settling an agreement with the coalition government.”
“We will stay in Islamabad until the government decided to dissolve assemblies and announces election dates,” he reiterated, adding that they will reach D-Chowk and no hurdle can stop them.
Speaking to a charged crowd, he called the incumbent government a “group of American slaves”. The former prime minister acknowledged that his party workers and leaders were being arrested across the country, while several others were being harassed.
‘Our protest will remain peaceful like always’
Imran maintained that staging a protest was the party’s right, adding that he would unite the country and make it a nation.
“All Pakistanis, women, children, families, youth, lawyers, retired army officers, everyone has to come out for real independence,” he said.
The PTI chairman had earlier announced to lead the march from Wali interchange, where he landed in a helicopter. In a video message recorded before leaving the former prime minister said: “This is a decisive moment for Pakistan.”
Urging the people to join him in the “Azadi March” he had assured his supporters that PTI will snatch its freedom.
Khan had urged people to carry the Pakistan flag along with them as this is the fight for “real freedom.”
Govt reportedly plans to detain Imran Khan
The federal government is reportedly planning to detain the party chairman Imran Khan and his associates on their way from Peshawar despite the government’s decision to disallow a long march.
The News reported a top security official as saying that the action will be taken in a bid to stop what Imran Khan is saying will be the “biggest procession” in Pakistan’s history.
On Tuesday, the government decided to use all its force to foil PTI’s “Azadi March”, with the police continuing its crackdown against PTI workers and officials. Section 144 has been imposed in Lahore, Karachi and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the roads leading up to the capital city from different parts of the country have been blocked.
Islamabad braces for closure
The local authorities have barricaded all entry points into Islamabad with heavy shipping containers to obstruct the way of PTI marchers.
The barricades have been placed for two primary tasks: first to contain the long march and second to ensure fool-proof security of the Red Zone. All the roads leading to Red Zone have been sealed, except Margalla Road. Containers have also been placed at D-Chowk to seal the area around the Old Parade Ground and Parliamentary Lodges.
Thousands of policemen, including the Anti-Riot Unit, Counter-Terrorism Force, Anti-Terrorism Force, and police reserve along with contingents from Rangers are being deployed to maintain the law and order situation in the city.
GT Road, Motorway blocked to stop long march
Meanwhile, barriers have been erected at several points on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway as well. The authorities have blocked all the land routes between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab by putting huge piles of mud, containers, ballast stones, cement blocks and iron barriers and fences in many places.
Heavy contingents of the personnel of stick-wielding police force and Rangers have also been deputed at GT Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway to stop the way of PTI workers towards Islamabad.
Roads blocked in Karachi
Meanwhile, PTI supporters from Karachi are expected to stage demonstrations at Numaish Chowrangi; however, according to the police, preparations have been completed to stop them.
Two prisoner vans have been kept on standby in case of possible arrests. While lady cops have also reached the site.
According to traffic police, MA Jinnah road and its adjoining areas have been blocked. Amid roads that have been blocked include:
- The road leading toward People’s Chowrangi from Numaish Chowarnagi
- Corridor 3 New Preedy Street from Saddar Dawakhana road leading towards People Chowrangi
- Nizami Road (heading from Lines areas to Numaish Chowarngi ) has also been blocked
- The road leading towards Numaish Chowrangi from Capri Cinema has been closed; traffic is being directed toward Soldier Bazar.
- Traffic heading from Society Signal toward Numaish Chowrangi is being diverted to Kashmir Road
Islamabad Police issues traffic plan
The traffic police have issued a traffic plan to facilitate the public. According to an official update, entry and exit points to the Red Zone have been closed at Ayub chowk, NADRA chowk, Express chowk, and Serena chowk.
Those who wish to enter or exit the red zone can only use Margalla road.
- Ataturk Avenue has been closed from Nazimud Deen T-Cross to Geo Chowk
- Nazimud Deen Road has been closed from Zoom petrol pump to Ataturk Avenue
- Jinnah Avenue has been blocked from China Chowk to Express Chowk
- Murree Road is blocked for both sides of traffic towards Faizabad from Rawalpindi
- Islamabad Expressway has been closed for incoming traffic to Islamabad at the Gulberg Green Bridge
Pakistan to ‘ascertain facts’ on Afghan minister using its passport
- Haqqani possessed a Pakistani passport until recently: report.
- FO says the answer will come only after facts are ascertained.
- US officials are set to visit Pakistan to discuss several matters.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Thursday it will first ascertain facts before issuing a comment on a report that claims that Afghanistan’s acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani possessed a Pakistani passport until recently.
In her weekly press briefing, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said: “I have seen the report on the use of a Pakistani passport by the Afghan minister. The matter will be answered after [ascertaining] the facts.”
A report published in The News today revealed that Haqqani was issued a Pakistani passport for five years which he used to travel abroad, particularly to Qatar for negotiations with the United States for the signing of the Doha Agreement that resulted in the latter’s exit from Afghanistan.
The publication, via the interior ministry officials, learnt that these passports were issued from different cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh.
Meanwhile, two passport officials involved in issuing Haqqani’s passport have been arrested, one of whom had retired from service by the time the action was initiated against him.
The issue around the minister using the Pakistani passport comes at a time when Pakistan continues to repatriate illegal foreigners, most of whom are undocumented Afghan migrants.
Baloch also briefed the presser about top officials from the United States visiting Pakistan this week.
“The focus of these visits is not only Afghanistan. These visits are related to the multifaceted aspects of Pakistan-US relations,” she said, adding that Pakistan has decided to talk to America.
Pakistan and the US will conduct consultations over several issues including the situation in Afghanistan, the FO said last week.
In the meetings between Pakistan and US officials, reservations of both sides will be discussed. “We will also discuss the issues on which we have objections.”
Updated list of Afghans from US
The spokesperson further shared that Pakistan has received an updated list from the American authorities regarding the transfer of Afghan nationals to the US.
Last month, a coalition comprising former high-ranking United States (US) officials and resettlement organisations issued an urgent appeal to Pakistan, urging it to not deport Afghan individuals applying to seek refuge in and visas for the US.
The appeal came weeks after Pakistan announced November 1 as the deadline for all undocumented migrants — a substantial number of whom are Afghans — residing in the country to either leave on their own or face expulsion once the ultimatum ends.
The population of the aforementioned migrants includes roughly 20,000 or potentially more Afghans, who escaped their homeland following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021. Many of these migrants in Pakistan are awaiting their applications for the US Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) or refugee resettlement in the United States to be processed.
Commenting on regular skirmishes at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the spokesperson said: “There are often misunderstandings between the border authorities. These misunderstandings are cleared through communication channels.”
She added that the Torkham border was opened for all kinds of traffic yesterday.
Israels’ ‘barbaric attacks’
The FO yet again condemned the continuous Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, stating that the situation in the Strip is rapidly deteriorating.
“No place in Gaza is safe for the public,” Baloch said.
The UN Security Council must perform its primary responsibility under the Charter, impose an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and protect the people of Gaza from an impending genocide, the FO spokesperson said.
“We call on Israel’s backers to urge Israel to end its barbaric attacks and inhumane siege against Gaza,” she added.
The spokesperson further stated that Pakistan calls for an international conference for long-term peace on the Palestinian question.
“Durable peace in the region will emerge from the internationally agreed two-state solution and from the creation of a secure, viable, contiguous, and sovereign state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital,” she said.
Baloch also spoke about the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s efforts for Palestinians.
The head of the UN warned that he expects “public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions” in Gaza, currently under relentless Israeli bombardment and invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time in his tenure owing to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in the Strip.
‘Pakistani citizens welfare top priority’
During the presser, Baloch commented on the recent revelations regarding Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in the United States for over a decade.
According to her lawyer, the Pakistani doctor has been sexually assaulted at least two times during her incarceration.
“The statements related to Aafia Siddiqui are serious,” the spokesperson said.
She further added that Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has instructed that the matter should be taken up with the US Department of State and investigations should be conducted.
“The welfare of Pakistani citizens is among our priorities,” Baloch reiterated.
She also spoke about the acid attack on former special assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar last week.
“Shahzad Akbar did not seek help from the Pakistani High Commission in this regard,” she said.
The FO strongly rejected the allegations of involvement of Pakistani agencies in the incident. “Pakistan has faith in the British authorities’ investigation.”
Bahawalpur Zoo closed after man mauled to death by lions
- CM Punjab forms committee to probe Bahawalpur incident.
- Victim has not been identified yet; zoo closed till probe is completed.
- Postmortem carried out at Bahawal Victoria Hospital.
LAHORE: Bahawalpur’s Sherbagh Zoo was closed till the investigations are completed into an incident in which the lions mauled a man to death, Curator Ali Usman Bukhari told Geo News Thursday.
Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi and Commissioner Bahawalpur have constituted separate committees to investigate the shocking development.
According to the zoo administration, the body has not been identified yet.
Meanwhile, the preliminary postmortem report, that was carried out at the Bahawal Victoria Hospital revealed that the man was ripped apart by the big cats. It further stated that the man attempted to defend himself but the animals mauled him to death.
The administration shared that it has yet to be figured out how the man was able to get inside the enclosure.
On Wednesday, a man was found dead inside the enclosure by staff carrying out routine cleaning.
The body was found after the staff spotted a shoe in the mouth of one of the big cats.
“When they cleaned the zoo and the dens, they found the (animal) holding a shoe in its mouth,” Zaheer Anwar, a senior government official in Bahawalpur, told the media.
“The staff got suspicious and then they found a body inside the den,” he said.
The official described the big cat using a word that in Pakistan can mean tiger or leopard, and both are believed to be housed inside the zoo.
“Our assessment so far is that this appears to be a lunatic, because a sensible person would not jump into the den,” Anwar said.
“You can see that the den is secured. There are stairs behind the den, maybe he jumped from there.
“(The) staff are all accounted for.”
Zafarullah, an official of the rescue service 1122 in Bahawalpur, told AFP that the victim’s legs had been heavily mauled.
“It is yet not known who he is and how he got there. It is being investigated. The body looked several hours old,” said Zafarullah, who goes by one name.
He said forensic experts were examining the body.
The zoo is run by Punjab’s wildlife department, according to its website, and costs adults 50 rupees (18 cents) to enter.
Housing societies to get RLNG amid ban on new gas connections
- About 3.3 million applications currently pending with gas companies.
- Local gas may cater to country needs for 6-7 years only.
- New LNG terminal needed for RLNG supply to all applicants.
In a significant development, the government has decided to issue instructions to the northern and southern Sui gas companies to provide Re-Gasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) connections to all housing societies that are not currently connected with the natural gas distribution network.
The RLNG connections will be provided at the full price, which is estimated to be over $12 per MMBtu (Rs3700 per MMBtu), reported The News on Thursday.
It has been decided that the cost of RLNG connections, including transportation and distribution losses, will be fully recovered from the residents of the housing societies.
“About 200 housing societies require gas connections, but the government has asked them that local gas production has tumbled to just 3.2bcfd which is further dwindling at a fast pace and only RLNG can be provided to them. The local gas may cater to country needs for six to seven years only,” top officials of the Energy Ministry told The News.
About 3.3 million applications are currently pending with the gas companies which also include those applicants who reside in areas that are connected to gas transmission and distribution networks.
“We will not provide the RLNG connection to those who are connected with the existing gas distribution network as after getting the RLNG gas connection, consumers can take the gas companies to court on the grounds of discrimination in charges.”
If the government provides, the official said, the RLNG supply to all 3.3 million applicants, then it will have to import 800 mmcfd of gas for which a new LNG terminal is needed to import the LNG.
However, for housing societies with just 50,000 applicants, only 10-20 mmcfd RNLG is enough.
The officials said, “So we have decided to provide the RLNG at full price to the housing societies instead of local gas.
“There has never been a moratorium on the provision of RLNG to housing societies, but gas companies were under the wrong impression because of the moratorium imposed on local gas connections despite a decision by the federal cabinet in 2017 under which the ban on gas connections based on local gas was imposed, but not on RLNG connection.”
They said, “Now the Petroleum Division authorities have decided to issue clear directions to the gas companies to this effect so that they can start giving the RLNG gas connections to housing societies that are not connected to the existing distribution network.”
“We are in the process of making a summary which after more consultation will be put before the CCoE for the decision of issuance of the direction to gas companies for RLNG connections,” the officials said.
“Another option is to keep in view the federal government’s decision of 2017, based on which the Petroleum Division may be asked to issue the clarification to the gas companies. This way, fresh approval by CCoE won’t be required,” the officials added.
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