ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Army troops deployed in the Red Zone of Islamabad on the request of the federal government would be withdrawn on Wednesday (today), well-placed sources informed The Nation.
The sources said that the Interior Ministry also had the knowledge of the new development.
Army withdrawing its troops from the Red Zone a few days ahead of PTI’s November 30 procession may be seen as a huge development.
Anticipating PTI and PAT sit-ins, the federal government had invoked article 245 to call the Pak Army for maintaining law and order in the Red Zone in aid of civilian law-enforcement agencies for three months – from August to October.
The Red Zone’s security was handed over to the Army troops and other agencies precisely on August 19, as political condition in the country worsened. The army was to ensure the security of key buildings including Parliament House, Prime Minster House, President House, Supreme Court and Pak Secretariat located on the Constitution Avenue.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), information wing of the Army, had issued a press release after deployment of the Army in the Red Zone, saying that a request had been made by the government. Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had also announced making a formal request to the Army in this regard. He had said that Army troops would guard key buildings located in the Constitution Avenue.
Later, as the sit-ins prolonged, the federal government extended army’s presence in the capital for further three months after completion of the initial three months. The extended three months were to lapse in January, but the reported pullout order has come much ahead of it.
Well-placed sources informed this scribe that the Army high command has ordered its troops deployed for the security of the Red Zone to leave the area between Tuesday and Wednesday night. The decision had been conveyed to the Interior Ministry and troops had been ordered to shift their belongings and vacate the Red Zone, sources added.
Sources said that the number of a thousand-plus troops deployed for the security of important buildings was reduced to 800 troops after Dr Tahirul Qadri announced end to the sit-in of his party on October 21. They said that all 800 army soldiers would leave the area by Wednesday.
ISPR version on the latest development could not be acquired immediately.
During PTI and PAT anti-government protests, army troops performed their duty and did not allow the protesters to enter the parliament and other key buildings. Even Army got vacated the Pakistan Television building (PTV) after it had been stormed by protesters.
GOVT ‘DECIDES’ TO CALL OUT
Imran Mukhtar adds: Though the federal government is still to decide either to stop the participants of November 30 rally of PTI from entering the capital or to allow them to participate in it, it has decided to requisition additional police and paramilitary troops for the security of the Islamabad during the rally.
“We will seek additional force from Punjab Police, Punjab Constabulary, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Police Force and FC to assist Islamabad Police to make security arrangements for PTI rally,” an official of the Ministry of Interior who was not authorised to speak on record said.
“We have conveyed to the departments concerned that they should keep ready the security personnel for their onward deployment in the federal capital at any time,” he added.
The federal government had requisitioned thousands of troops of Punjab Police, Punjab Constabulary, AJK Police and FC in August when PTI and PAT had announced to stage a sit-in in Islamabad as protest.
The Punjab Elite Police Force had been separately deployed in the capital. At one time, total 40,000 troops had been deployed in the capital to tackle the protesters of PAT and PTI, however, their number kept on decreasing when the participants of the two sit-ins started decreasing and at last all the troops were withdrawn at the start of Muharramul Harram.
Furthermore, a source in the Ministry of Interior said that the government had not decided at the moment to promulgate presidential ordinance to ban entry of protesters in the high security Red Zone. The government is seriously looking into the legal and political repercussions on the promulgation of the Establishment of High Security Zone Ordinance, 2014, official sources in the ministry said.
The government is seeing that it is the possibility that this ordinance might be challenged in the court on human rights grounds and the court might throw this law into the dustbin, the sources said.
The official sources in the ministry informed that the government was also looking into whether this law could be implemented or not.
An official said that PTI and PAT had entered into the Red Zone with thousands of their workers in August violating two separate agreements in which they had given in black and white to the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) that they would not enter the Red Zone.
Both the parties violated the written agreement and the government had no tool to stop them on the basis of these agreements. So, the government does not want to promulgate such an ordinance that could only draw criticism from the civil society and the political parties, and could not be implemented to check the protesters.
The version of the Ministry of Interior could not be taken, as the key ministry of the government dealing with the internal security matters of the country had no official spokesperson.