Pakistan Army on the Roads as Imran Khan’s ‘Azadi March’ Enters Islamabad, Shelling & Clashes Reported

Shelling, aerial firing and massive clashes rocked Pakistan as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) workers clashed with police in Islamabad as ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s ‘Azadi March’ entered the capital city.

The army was summoned in by the Shehbaz Sharif government early Thursday to protect Islamabad’s Red Zone. The army took control of the area, especially Parliament House, Presidency, Prime Minister’s house and office, Supreme Court and Diplomatic Enclave.

At 5am on Thursday, Khan reached the G-9 area, around 6 kilometres from D-Chowk, following a long tussle with law enforcers. Meanwhile, ahead of his arrival, a huge number of PTI supporters and workers reached D-Chowk to welcome their leader.

The defiant former PM had on Wednesday rejected reports about any deal with the government on his protest march, saying the rally would go ahead followed by a sit-in Islamabad until new elections were announced by the Pakistani authorities.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday gave Imran Khan’s party permission to stage an Azadi march in Peshawar Mor, between the H-9 and G-9 areas of Islamabad, and barred the government from arresting PTI supporters. Before the march entered Islamabad, however, skirmishes between party workers and police broke out in various locations, including Punjab, Lahore, and Karachi.

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It is expected that the top court may summon the government and the PTI team for not complying with SC directives.

Amid the din, in yet another worry for Pakistan, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) late on Wednesday delayed the revival of the stalled $6-billion programme under External Financing Facility (EFF) for Pakistan.

Pakistan failed to convince the IMF, as both sides could not reach a staff-level agreement despite week-long negotiations in Doha, Qatar, from May 18-25.

The Fund, in a statement, has emphasised the abolition of subsidies on petroleum products and electricity, among other conditions, as a prerequisite for the programme’s revival.

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