Police stations in Islamabad have begun taking riot gear out of armoury stores as the law enforcement authorities brace for a showdown with opposition marchers scheduled to reach the federal capital later this month.
Islamabad has not witnessed violent street protests since the Tehrik Labaik Pakistan’s (TLP) 2017 lockdown and riot gear gifted by the United States has been left in storage since, officials said.
They added that the police are now preparing for the “Azadi (Freedom) March”, announced by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur (JUI-F) led by Fazlur Rehman.
According to senior police officers, all four zonal in-charges have issued directives to sub-divisional police officials to clean riot kits kept in police storage in their jurisdiction.
They have also been asked to fix equipment that is damaged.
The officers said that the City, Saddar and Rural zones have six police stations each, while the Industrial Area zone has four.
Each zone has 200 to 300 riot kits, and officials have been asked to familiarise themselves with handling, fixing and wearing the equipment.
The police last engaged in anti-riot activity against the weeks-long sit-in by the TLP at the Faizabad interchange in 2017, which almost brought the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad to a standstill.
The officers said a massive anti-riot operation undertaken at the time by police from all four sides with the Anti-Riot Unit and Anti-Terrorism Squad failed.
At the request of the capital police, the administration has sought assistance from the interior ministry in the form of manpower and finance to deal with the Azadi March.
Police and administration officials said around 10,000 officials from the police in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir, and Railways have been sought for the march.
A contingent of Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary has also been requested.
In addition, Rs50mn has been sought to bear transportation, meals and accommodation expenses for the personnel, as well as to make other arrangements such as shipping containers to seal areas like the Red Zone.
They added that the budget has been estimated for manpower for a fortnight.
Earlier, the Central Police Office was considering requesting the same number of personnel and the same amount of money sought during the 2014 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek sit-in, but that demand was dropped because the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab police also have to deal with marchers in their province.
The capital administration and police have asked their counterparts in KP and Punjab to intercept JUI-F leaders, activists and workers in their jurisdictions along with any possible participants at the district level.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Waqar Uddin said that around 10,000 officials were requested from Punjab, KP and Azad Kashmir as well as a Frontier Corps and Rangers contingent.
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