Saturday, May 14, 2011

Red Zone turned into no-go area

Red Zone turned into no-go area

By Munawer Azeem and Kalbe Ali | From the Newspaper
ISLAMABAD, May 13: Soon after Friday prayers the Red Zone became a no-go area as the legislators made a beeline for the Parliament House for the in-camera session on the Abbottabad incident.
The extraordinary security plan for the parliament`s joint session forced the diplomatic missions and the government offices in the Red Zone to postpone meetings and appointments. However, the security cordon was broken by the activists of Youth of Parachinar and the workers of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), as they managed to reach the gates of the parliament. Police arrested 24 protesters.
As the parliamentarians were briefed by the top military brass, including the ISI chief, the security was manned by hundreds of men of Islamabad police, Frontier Constabulary, Rangers and the army.
They were stationed from Nadra head office to the entrance gate of Diplomatic Enclave towards the Convention Centre and on the other side at the PTV head office.
With helicopters hovering over and four armoured personnel carriers (APCs) stationed within the zone, a large number of security personnel were also posted outside it. Most of them were in plainclothes.
In the morning the government and private offices witnessed normal business. The restrictions on movements were put in place after the Friday prayers.
Though on Fridays the government offices are closed before the prayers, some of the staff stays behind. "We all tried to get out of the area as fast as possible," said a government employee, who did want to be named.
The local staff of the diplomatic missions was sent home early as diplomats cut down on their movements in the afternoon.
An official of an embassy said the afternoon appointments were cancelled because of security restrictions.
Despite security measures, the Youth of Parachinar activists reached the gates of the parliament to protest against the continued blockade and siege of Upper Kurrum area by the Taliban. On the 23rd day of their protest, the activists brought out a rally from the National Press Club to the D Chowk to highlight their woes as the top civilian and military leadership was inside the Parliament House.
The aerial security spotted the young men gathering at D Chowk and told the men on ground about the mob build-up. But before the policemen could control them, the activists crossed the security wall and barbed wires at the chowk. The protesters managed to stage a brief sit-in before the main gate of the National Assembly.
Police rounded up 24 protesters and booked them under section 188. A spokesman for the Youth of Parachinar said the protest was held to attract the attention of decision-makers.
"The interior minister repeatedly said on the floor of the parliament that the Parachinar issue would be resolved within 24 hours, but his promise has not been honoured," said Hassan Jan. He said 50 activists managed to reach near the Parliament House.
The protest by the Parachinar youth was closely followed by PTI workers at D Chowk, who protested against the holding of in-camera session over the Abbottabad incident.
They wanted the country`s leadership to tell nation "complete truth" about it. PTI workers, including women, displayed placards inscribed with slogans â€" "No in-camera, face the nation" and "no more drone attacks". Chanting slogans against the government, they demanded resignations of the president and the prime minister, saying they have failed to protect Pakistan`s sovereignty.
The arrested persons were taken to the Secretariat police station. A senior police officer said directives to release them have been issued.

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