The Azadi opposition march led by the religious group Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is expected to reach the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on the evening (local time) of Thursday, October 31. According to independent observers and authorities, around 100,000 people are expected to join the march in the capital.
To avoid incidents, all private schools in Rawalpindi and Islamabad were asked to remain closed on Thursday and heightened security measures have been implemented across the two cities.
Severe traffic disruptions have also been reported in both cities, including the suspension of all metro bus services. An extensive traffic diversion plan have been implemented across Islamabad and multiple areas such as the Red Zone and the Faizabad and Zero Point interchanges were sealed off with shipping containers and barbed wires on Wednesday, October 30. Further details on the traffic diversion routes can be found on the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) website (link here).
Internet services have reportedly been suspended in the vicinity of Peshawar Mor interchange, where the rally is expected to take place.
A heightened security presence and significant traffic and business disruptions are expected across Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
The march is being held with the support of opposition parties such as the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). In late September 2019, the PPP and JUI-F agreed to hold parallel rallies across Pakistan, calling for the ousting of the current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government.
Individuals in Rawalpindi and Islamabad are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all public gatherings as a precaution, refrain from discussing political topics in public or on social media, allow extra travel time, anticipate transportation and business disruptions near protest sites and a heightened security presence.
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