Scuffles with police, baton-charge, teargas shelling, arrests and pitched street battles were the order of the day yesterday as defiant PTI workers and supporters from parts of the country — mainly from KhyberPakhtunkhwa — marched on the federal capital despite heavy police deployment and huge road blockades.
The judiciary played a commendable role as it tried to mediate between the government and the agitating PTI for an amicable way out of the crisis. The Lahore High Court, the Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court simultaneously took up petitions for hearing in larger public interest, and came up with the utmost relaxations as they could for the masses at large. That involved releasing arrested political workers, granting space-specific permission to PTI in the federal capital to protest, as well as easing curbs on roadblocks and on media. This, at least, saved the day from bloody clashes as PTI workers and supporters, who were charged to the core, rallied on the streets of Punjab. Rallies in Lahore, Jhelum, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Karachi were, however, put down with brute use of force.
It was, however, the main caravan from K-P — led by Imran Khan himself — that was the focus of all attention. Rubbishing rumours of a deal with the government — that were circulating since the midday — Khan once more pronounced an ‘absolutely not’, and refused to give in. In a tweet, Khan reiterated his demand for dissolution of the National Assembly and announcement of fresh elections, and vowed to stay put in the federal capital till then. The momentum kept on building day long as the rally from K-P closed in on the Attock Bridge, and rolled into territorial Punjab. It was supposed to be the biggest theatre of action as Punjab Police had sealed it with containers, and even dug the road to hamper the procession from moving towards Islamabad. But that impediment collapsed like a house of cards, as supporters pushed back the iron-built obstacles and moved on.
The capitulation of police was evident as it walked back without putting any resistance over River Kabul. So was the thrust from across Jhelum and on the other side of the GT Road from Lahore as PTI caravans headed at a snail’s pace in all resilience. The orders from the Supreme Court to enable the PTI to proceed on the assurance that it would be a peaceful show upped the enthusiasm by evening. That made the way for inflow of more rallies from Mianwali, DG Khan, and other adjoining junctions from Punjab and Azad Kashmir into the capital till late night, apart from overnight contingents of people who had travelled from Gilgit-Baltistan and tribal areas.
With the federal capital set to see mass mobilisation from countrywide and the momentum passing on to the next day, a political solution in all seriousness is the need of the hour. The earlier a deal is struck the better, as the fragile economic situation and soaring bitterness on political lines bodes ill for harmony and serenity. Stakeholders must intervene and broker a solution in order to avoid an administrative standoff, as well as a law and order menace. The onus is squarely on all to defuse the situation, and see to it that constitutionalism prevails and the madness of power tussle does not pave the way for undemocratic forces to step in.