Govt strategy on long march wrapped in ambiguity

ISLAMABAD: The government’s strategy regarding the PTI’s long march remained wrapped in ambiguity till late Wednesday night as important government officials, including Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, tried to tone down initial euphoria created by unconfirmed news channels reports claiming that the PML-N government had actually decided to allow the march without any hindrance. The top officials of police and Islamabad administration, meanwhile, claimed they had not received any direction from the government to allow the marchers into Islamabad. “Till date, the direction is not to allow any marcher into Islamabad territory”, an important official said. Sources said that after consultations with his close aides the prime minister had actually decided to give a free hand and access to the PTI long march till Zero Point, Islamabad, but a Lahore High Court decision to not allow “unconstitutional long march” compelled the government to review its decision.  As the PTI interpreted the high court decision as an authorisation to go for a “lawful long march”, the government decided to interpret it otherwise. Apart from the legal interpretation, the government decision to ask the PTI to seek a written permission from Islamabad district administration and several district administrations in Punjab on their route to Islamabad. This came after a thorough review of the political situation after a high-profile meeting between the government and military leadership.   Interestingly, the interior minister addressed a press conference on Wednesday night after holding an important meeting with Chief of the Army Chief (COAS) General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi. Nisar was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who had especially flown in from Lahore to meet the army chief. The duo met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House immediately after meeting the army chief. Though there was no official confirmation of the meeting but Nisar tried to play down the significance of the said meeting, telling newsmen his meetings with the COAS as the interior minister were a frequent occurrence.Though the government circles claimed the meeting was non-political in nature, sources said the two important government high-ups explained in details political measures taken by the PML-N government to calm down the political turmoil and complained about the PTI’s stance and insistence on marching on the capital. Earlier, the government ministers talked to MQM leadership in London and JI Ameer Sirajul Haq in Lahore to explain their standpoint. PM Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, remained busy all day at the PM House meeting government ministers, aides, and political leaders.While speaking to the lawmakers from different parties, Nawaz said the PTI leader should remember that “people could not be hoodwinked through false and fiery speeches”. The PM further said that bad governance and mal-administration had exposed tall claims of Imran Khan and his ministers. The PM said that PTI chairman was rallying on the support of individuals whose political careers had been buried by the people of Pakistan. A delegation comprising of Pir Ijaz Ahmed Hashmi, Shah Muhammad Owais Noorani, Qazi Zawar Bahadur, Muhammad Fayaz Khan and Kashif Randhawa of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e- Pakistan called on Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif here on Wednesday at the PM House. According to a press release from the PM House Shah Muhammad Owais Noorani told the meeting that “our forefathers were among the founders of 1973 Constitution and we want the sanctity of the constitution upheld. The supremacy of the constitution should be preserved,” he said. 

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