AJK govt foils bid to siege assembly
21 June 2003
Our Staff Correspondent
MUZAFFARABAD: The AJK government on Saturday foiled the plans of People's Party to lay siege of the legislative assembly building by blocking the entry of PP activists into Muzaffarabad and arresting around 250 of them from different areas. Police sources said raids to arrest the PP activists began on Friday and continued on Saturday under 'preventive measures.' Police were ordered to 'firmly' stop the movement of the PP activists to the state capital, the sources said. SSP Muzaffarabad Khalid Chauhan told Dawn that majority of the detainees - around 180 - were arrested from different localities of the capital overnight Friday. They included PPAJK secretary-general Chaudhry Latif Akbar, secretary information Khwaja Farooq Ahmed, former deputy speaker Syed Shaukat Naqvi, former minister Chaudhry Ali Mohammad Chacha, AJK council member Matloob Inqilabi and others. The rest were arrested in the southern districts while they were planning to travel to Muzaffarabad to participate in the demonstration, the sources said. PPAJK president and leader of the opposition in assembly Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry however put the figure of detainees at over 3,000. Talking to reporters, he alleged that one of the opposition MLAs - Shahzada Kosar Gillani - had been detained for four hours on Friday night. 'We planned to peacefully record our protest against the support to division of Kashmir by Sardar Sikandar Hayat. But the prime minister adopted worst measures to thwart our peaceful programme.' Large contingents of police patrolled the streets of Muzaffarabad on Saturday to prevent the opposition's move. The main road in the capital wore a deserted look as the people preferred to stay indoors to avoid being hurt in likely clashes between the police and the opposition workers. Police had also cordoned the assembly building, and strict surveillance was put in place to check the entry of visitors and vehicles due to which no demonstration could take place. Inside the house, rowdy scenes marked the proceedings soon after Speaker Sardar Siab Khalid gave floor to the finance minister after recitation from the holy Quran. The speaker announced that opposition leader Sahibzada Ishaq Zafar's resolution, calling for withdrawal of cases against Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and permission to them to return home, was in accordance with rules but would be discussed later. However, instantly, the leader of the opposition escorted 10 out of 15 PP legislators towards the finance minister's rostrum in a bid to prevent him from delivering the speech. Treasury legislators frustrated their attempts, but in the due course both sides scuffled with each other with some of them laughing and smiling as if it was a fun for them. Interestingly, the five opposition legislators, including Sahibzada Zafar, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, Chaudhry Pervez Ashraf, Raja Mujahid and Akhtar Rabbani, remained completely indifferent to what their colleagues had been doing and later they left the hall silently. Later, talking to reporters, the AJK prime minister regretted the 'unruly behaviour of opposition MLAs.' The governments, he said, could not be changed through scuffles or slogan-mongering, but through the procedure laid down in the constitution. Without naming the AJK president, he said those who talked about 'checks and balance' in AJK were behind the opposition leader's call. 'Whatever they did today has not sent a good message outside.' PRESS NOTE In a press note issued late Saturday Deputy Commissioner Muzaffarabad said that the detainees 'were being released after extending assurance that they would not disturb the law and order situation.'