ISLAMABAD/LAHORE/PESHAWAR/QUETTA/KARACHI. Road blockades outside major Election Commission of Pakistan offices are expected today (Tuesday) as the PTI workers stage a countrywide protest against the chief election commissioner for what it says is bias.
The protesters led by party leaders are demanding of the ECP to take action against the PTI's "dissidents" and stressing the need for early elections.
The call for protest was made after the PTI's political committee met Sunday. In a series of tweets, Fawad Chaudhry accused chief election commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja of being dishonest and partisanship. Fawad alleged that the ECP was not issuing a declaration to remove “dissident lawmakers” from their seats because it was part of a plot.
Addressing media in Islamabad, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid slammed the incumbent government for striking through as many as 3,000 names from the Exit Control List. He admitted that the call for the protest had reignited the PTI's popularity, which got down in the past.
"The ECP must announce the election date till May 30 or else Imran Khan will call for protest," Rashid said.
PTI leader Shibli Faraz, who was accompanying Rashid, also took a jibe at the new coalition government. He alleged that the incumbent administration was making attempts to create hurdles for the protesters.
Faraz claimed that the former ruling party did not create any hurdles for the PPP when the latter took to the streets against PTI.
The demonstrations were scheduled for 12:00pm in major cities. But the small groups and leaders reached late for the protest.
People in small groups have started gathering at the Kanwal Market, G6 Ground. They are coming by walking or in their vehicles.
The capital city police sealed the Red Zone on Tuesday and kept Margalla Road and Serena Chowk open.
“Following points are closed for traffic closed: Express Chowk, NADRA Chowk, Ayub Chowk, and Bari Imam Road,” the Islamabad Police tweeted.
In a statement on Monday, police said Section 144 has been imposed in the Red Zone on the orders of the Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz. This means people cannot gather in groups in public places. The police appealed to political parties and people to not protest in the Red Zone.
According to updates by noon, CEC Sikander Sultan Raja reached the ECP Office in Islamabad. The usual security deployment of 300 Rangers and 1,500 police personnel was on duty at the Red Zone. However, a prisoner van, water cannon and armoured vehicles were added on. A special unit of the Anti-Riot Force has also been sent in. The Pakistan Army is at stand by.
The ECP Office in Islamabad is located on Constitution Avenue, G-5/2 G-5, which connects the Prime Minister's Office, Parliament House, and Supreme Court.
The capital city administration has maintained that only parliamentarians should come to stage the protest.
PTI protesters have started coming outside the ECP office in Lahore, amid heavy deployment of police. Traffic is being diverted to alternate routes, as the routes to the office are being blocked.
So far, the Punjab government has not issued any directives for closing roads leading to the ECP office in Lahore, as it is located at the back of the Aiwan-e-Sadr. It is not a busy area and is not as sensitive as the one in the federal capital.
Wearing red and green caps and scarves, protesters reached outside the ECP in Peshawar and tried to enter the office. But, police personnel failed the demonstrator's attempt to enter the office. Demonstrators are demanding of the CEC Sikander to step down and calling for early elections.
Moreover, ECP in Peshawar on Monday sent a letter to district police officers and deputy commissioners seeking security for its offices in the division.
“Keeping in view the above position, foolproof security arrangements are required to be made for the offices of the ECP in Peshawar Division from tomorrow 07:00am under the supervision of a responsible police officer,” read the copy of the letter, which is available with Aaj Digital.
The provision of security has been sought in Charsadda, Mohmand, Peshawar, and Nowshera.
According to the latest update, security has been deployed outside the ECP office which is located at Shami Road in the Cantt area of Peshawar.
PTI protesters have gathered outside the ECP office in Quetta to protest on the call of the party leadership.
Former ruling party demonstrators have also reached the protest site in Karachi and chanted slogans against the alleged behaviour of the CEC and the "party dissidents". The party leadership has decided to march from the ECP office to Sindh High Court after the protest.
PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh slammed the chief election commissioner and alleged that the latter was partial. "You [ECP] have become supporters and leaders of dissidents," he said while addressing the protesters.