Pak government intensifies security in the red zone to thwart oppn sitting

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government increased security in Islamabad on Sunday to thwart protesters in the ranks of opposition parties to move to the red zone of the capital for a prolonged sitting.

Nicknamed as Azadi March, the caravan of protesters left Lahore in Punjab on Wednesday and arrived in Islamabad on Thursday night.

The nationwide protest is led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal). On Friday, the Maulana had given a two-day ultimatum to the Prime Minister. Imran Khan give up and promised to unleash his next move if Imran stayed.

All security officers have received tear gas canisters and other combat equipment. Thousands of security personnel were called from the provinces and deployed in the capital to help Islamabad police.

Instructions have also been issued to the personnel to ensure that protesters do not move beyond the designated protest venue, about 7km from PM Imran Khan's office and official residence.

The government has blocked all roads leading to the D-Chowk, a venue in the red zone, with shipping containers and additional law enforcement personnel to pre-empt the Maulana from camping there with his protesters. Imran Khan had staged a 126-day sit-in at this very venue in 2014.

The opposition Popular Party of Pakistan (PPP), part of the Azadi March, said Sunday that it will oppose the confrontation with the government or any plan to prolong the sit-in.

While strongly criticizing the government (PTI), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari , PPP president, categorically distanced his party from any plan to march to D-Chowk or prolong the sitting.

Our demands are the same, but we are not participating in the sit-in, he said, while talking with the journalists. Bending the illegitimate Imran government, Bilawal said he was selected and not elected.