Peshawar: Truth Tracker/News Lens Pakistan has learned district resources were used in Swabi to plan and enable Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s proposed lockdown of Islamabad meant to force the Prime Minister out of power.
On October 28, PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, had announced a protest sit-in in Islamabad on November 2, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after Panama Papers revealed his family’s link to offshore companies.
The proposed siege of the capital was ultimately stopped by the intervention of the Supreme Court which announced on November 1 that an independent inquiry would be held into the Panama Paper revelations. At that point, the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had made all preparations to facilitate the lockdown.
Swabi, which lies roughly midway between Peshawar and Islamabad, was declared a basecamp for PTI activists and supporters to gather before marching on Islamabad. According to the PTI stalwarts, the PTI leadership relied on its supporters from KP to make the lockdown a success, dividing the province into four administrative zones – Peshawar, South, Hazara and Malakand/Swat to provide manpower for the march on the capital. In Peshawar, the capital city of KP, the party had pressed 25000 of its local government representatives into service to pull together 200,000 protesters to Islamabad.
On October 30, the District Swabi Town Municipal Administration (TMA) workers, dressed in official uniform, were busy making arrangements for PTI rally to gather at the basecamp located on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway. An official in the district administration who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitive nature of information told News Lens that the KP Minister for Health Sharam Tarakai, and KP Assembly Speaker Assad Qaisar – both of whom belong to PTI – directed the district authorities to make arrangements for the PTI gathering.
However, beside manpower drawn from the district government in Swabi including four TMAs from Toppi, Chota Lahore, Swabi and Razzar, the official said equipment and machinery of TMA and Communication and Works (C&W) department including two fire brigades, three water tankers, two cranes, several tractors and 3000 chairs were used to facilitate the PTI rally. Around 4000 policemen of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were deployed on Motorway to provide security to PTI leaders.
The PTI activists not only used TMA and the Municipal Committee’s vehicles, said the official, but they also engaged vehicles from the Swabi University to shuttle protesters to the Swabi basecamp.
District Swabi Tehsil Razzar Nazim Ghulam Haqqani told New Lens that on the direction of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Swabi, the TMAs have provided machinery and employees to PTI rally.
He said the C&W department spent PKR 0.5 million to prepare a helipad and install a sound system. He said fire brigade vehicles, cranes and tractors were used in the rally to remove containers placed by the federal government to stop people from marching on the capital. Fuel worth thousands of rupees was purchased on a daily basis, said Haqqani, to keep cranes, fire brigade vehicles and tractors running.
“The C&W department paid money to purchase the fuel,” he said. “The KP Health Minister Sharam Tarakai and the deputy commissioner of Swabi had directed the TMA offices and C&W to allow the use of funds and resources for the PTI rally.”
Khush Dil Khan, a resident of Swabi, criticized PTI leaders for using government resources for personal and political goals, saying public property and funds should not be used for personal interest. “Use of public property for personal and political gains is illegal. The authorities should take notice of such action to make politicians accountable.”
He said while the PTI campaigned against corruption and demanded resignation of the prime minister, it had no qualms using public property and resources for its own interest.
Deputy Commissioner Swabi Mattiullah Khan denied issuing any directives to TMAs and the C&W department for use of their resources to facilitate the PTI rally. He said that these organizations had provided machinery and employees to the party on their own; rejecting allegations against the district administrations and saying he was unaware of its involvement in facilitating the rally.
Abdur Rasheed, a Section Officer at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Department, said PTI used their own resources: “Not a single penny from government kitty was used in this rally. The KP chief minister and other ministers made the whole arrangements using their own money.”
When asked what were the C&W and TMA vehicles doing in the PTI rally’s basecamp, he said it was baseless news. “The government resources were not used in the rally.”
KP Assembly Deputy Speaker and PTI member Mehar Taj Roghani said PTI would pay “rent” to C&W and other organizations that worked to facilitate the PTI rally.
“As for police, they were deployed for the security of people and leaders,” said Roghani. “PTI activists came out in droves because they are against corruption and support Imran Khan.”