‘Akhand Bharat’ banners appear near Pak Parliament

Islamabad: Hundreds of flex banners bearing an Indian parliamentarians remark about acquiring Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan appeared near the National Assembly here a day after India reclassified Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as a Union Territory.

India on Monday asserted Kashmir was not a bilateral issue but an internal one as it scrapped the autonomy and the special status the region hitherto enjoyed. Pakistan has severely condemned this move and urged the international community to take note.

The banners were put up only a few hundred metres away from the Pakistani Parliament and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence here.

“Akhand Bharat” or Undivided India envisions Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of India. It has been one of the main goals of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu-nationalist organisation that is also the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which stormed to power for a second term in India’s general election in May. The banners carry the comments of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

These banners were erected on electric poles on a busy road in front of the National Press Club in sector F6, right in the heart of Islamabad. They were reportedly put up before dawn and first spotted by the locals as they were heading to work.

Sajid Mahmood, a businessman, was among the first to spot them. He made a video and posted it on Twitter and Facebook. The two-minute-long video went viral and prompted law-enforcement agencies here to remove the posters immediately.

Superintendent of Police (City) Amir Khan Niazi told this correspondent the Capital Territory Police removed the banners and have launched an inquiry to find out who erected them.

A spokesperson for Chief Commissioner of Islamabad had said late on Tuesday that the media would be briefed when the culprits were identified.

The news about the banners sparked anger among the residents of Islamabad. They questioned how someone could manage to pull off such an act right in the heart of Islamabad.

“It’s the failure of our law enforcement agencies, who couldn’t intercept those erecting anti-state posters in the heart of Islamabad,” said Sajid Ali, a resident of Sector F6 in Islamabad, where these banners were found.

Islamabad District Magistrate took note of the lapse and issued a show-cause notice to Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, asking why it took them five hours to remove the banners.

When journalists reached the spot to take photographs of the banners, they were intercepted by the police. Police chased a few who managed to take footage of the banners and forced them to delete the videos.

“Police subjected senior journalists with torture that is unacceptable,” the General Secretary of National Press Club Islamabad said on Tuesday evening. Police authorities suspended two policemen found guilty of thrashing the journalists.

Sources told this correspondent that the Prime Minister’s Office too has taken note of the matter and asked the authorities to launch a thorough probe to trace the culprits.

Dawn newspaper earlier on Wednesday reported that police have arrested a suspect from Blue Area who is believed to have been responsible for having placed the banners. Initial interrogation revealed that the suspect was into printing business, and had received orders for those banners from a resident of Gujranwala.

Police have sealed his printing press in Islamabad and shifted him to an undisclosed location for further interrogation.