Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday urged the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa—both ruled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—to end the road blockades erected by PTI activists on various highways and the motorway.
“I strongly request the provincial governments to open the national highways immediately,” he told a press conference, warning that provincial governments must fulfil their constitutional duties to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens or risk consequences. “The federal government reminded the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab governments about this duty today,” he said, urging the chief justices of the Lahore and Peshawar high courts to take notice of the protests, as the same people causing the traffic snarls would later approach the court for relief.
In a letter sent to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by the Interior Ministry, Article 15 of the Constitution was invoked, with an emphasis on the right to freedom of movement to every citizen of Pakistan. This right, it said, was being violated by the PTI’s protests. It urged the provincial governments to immediately remove the protesters and restore the smooth movement on traffic on all roads.
Apologizing on behalf of the federal government to people affected by the protests, Sanaullah claimed that the problems were being caused by crowds of 150 people or less who were burning tyres and using containers and tankers to block roads. The PTI, he claimed, then films videos zoomed into the crowd to give the false impression that a “sea” of citizens is on the roads.
Lamenting that the blockades had prevented people from reaching hospital, picking up children from school, and running important errands, he stressed that at some sites protesters had blocked roads from both sides, bringing traffic entirely to a halt. This is only possible, he claimed, because of the provincial government’s support, as police are either facilitating or ignoring the inconvenience to the general public.
Maintaining that the country had rejected the PTI’s “fitna march,” he said the party was using its provincial governments to cause trouble in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad. Reiterating that only a “few thousand” people had joined the party’s long march prior to the attempted assassination of PTI chief Imran Khan at Wazirabad, he accused the party of trying to push the country toward chaos.
To a question, he said police only had one suspect in the attack—Naveed—who was detained at the crime scene by a PTI supporter after he opened fire on Khan’s container and had claimed responsibility for the assault. “I say this again, Naveed is the only suspect. There is no other suspect,” he said, adding that the suspect’s confession suggested he had the same motivations as the people who shot Ahsan Iqbal and threw ink on Khawaja Asif. Emphasizing that the accused was “self-motivated,” he said no links had thus far been found between him and any political or religious party. “All the people he was linked to and in contact with are being investigated,” he added.
To another question, the interior minister said police couldn’t register a First Information Report (FIR) solely on the basis of Khan’s claims, as some evidence was necessary for any investigation to proceed. Lashing out at Khan’s demands for a FIR to be registered over the Wazirabad shooting as per his wishes, he said this meant anyone could accuse anyone of anything without any proof.
Sanaullah also addressed the ongoing probe into the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif, saying it did not appear to be a case of “mistaken identity” as claimed by Kenyan police. If it is proven to be a murder, he said, the two brothers who hosted Sharif in Nairobi would need to be questioned further to determine their role in the killing.