Pakistan: Authorities put containers on roads to stop marchers

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistani authorities have placed thousands of shipping containers on the roads to block the entry of protesters to the capital Islamabad, transporters said on Saturday.

Opposition parties in the country have announced an anti-government march that will start from various parts of the country on Oct. 27 and converge in Islamabad next Thursday, Oct 31.

Shipping firms accused authorities in the northeastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of forcibly seizing containers to put them on the roads to block protesters from reaching the capital.

“Over the last three days, police have forcibly taken possession of more than 3,000 containers in different parts of the country,” Hakimullah Khan, president of the Containers Association in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

Khan claimed that container seizures have caused a huge financial loss to their owners.

But authorities pushed back at the claims.

“We have not taken a single container by force,” Hamza Shafqaat, Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, told Anadolu Agency.

“We have hired all containers from the owners and we will pay for them,” he added.

The marchers’ leader on Friday warned that if the government blocked their routes to the capital, it could trigger clashes.

“We will go to Islamabad come what may, we will go by foot if they [government] block the roads, but we will get to Islamabad,” Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), told journalists in Larkana on Friday.

Rehman, who will lead the protest march, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and announce fresh elections in the country.

The government has formed a negotiation team lead by Defense Minister Perviz Khattak to talk with opposition parties to call off their protest.

On Friday, the government team met with opposition party leaders in Islamabad, but they failed to reach any agreement.