May 24, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Scores of activists of Pakistan Tehrik Insaf were detained in cities across Punjab as Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah that the federal government would not allow the PTI to hold its long march to Islamabad on May 25.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rana Sanaullah said the government would not allow the PTI to spread chaos and disorder in the guise of the march. “They will be stopped so they cannot propagate their misleading agenda.”
“These people (PTI) have moved from abuses to bullets. A police constable was killed in Lahore,” the interior minister said while referring to the death by firing of a police constable during a police raid on a local PTI leader in Model Town.
Rana Sanullah claimed that the PTI leadership had gathered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was planning to use the province’s resources and personnel to come and attack the federation. “They want to come as a mob that has no legal or constitutional status … this cannot be allowed,” he told reporters.
Imran Khan defiant
PTI Chairman Imran Khan slammed the government for trying to stop the party’s long march to Islamabad, asking the judiciary and the military which he referred as ‘neutrals’ to “do the right thing”.
In a press conference in Peshawar, Imran Khan asserted that there was no difference between the “fascist government” and the military dictators of the past, saying that both used the same tactics.
He maintained that during the PTI government’s tenure, the then opposition was allowed to stage protests and long marches several times.
He was strongly critical of the Lahore raid at the residence of retired Justice Nasira Iqbal whose son is a PTI senator. “Her house was raided last night […] I want to ask the neutrals and the judiciary, the scenes that you are witnessing, what kind of government can do this? Not a democratic one.”
The defiant PTI chief said he would lead a rally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Islamabad, adding that it was no longer about politics but was a “jihad” for him.
Bridges on entry points in Attock sealed amid Punjab crackdown
According to police sources, 150 activists and party workers have been detained in the crackdown launched Monday night. The detained activists are being kept at undisclosed locations instead of lockup cells in police stations across the Punjab capital.
A police constable was killed during an operation in Model Town locality last night after an unidentified person opened fire on him. The raid coincided with the post-midnight police crackdown on PTI leaders’ residences. There were also reports of late-night police action at the home of former federal minister Hammad Azhar.
In Gujranwala, police arrested 18 PTI activists in raids but important party leaders or party ticket holders in the city eluded arrest and are said to have already reached the federal capital for the planned long march. Mian Tariq, a party ticket holder from NA-80 constituency, Rizwan Aslam, Ali Ashraf Mughal and Siddique Mahar have gone underground but are said to be in Islamabad.
A former MPA Tahir Hundli was detained along with 13 other PTI activists during police raids in Sialkot. In the neighbouring district of Gujrat, 35 PTI workers were detained in late-night raids. The Chenab bridge was sealed with containers. Police have also rounded up around 35 containers which are being placed at main roads to thwart any attempt by PTI workers to take out a rally from the city towards Islamabad.
In Rawalpindi, police failed to detain former interior minister Sheikh Rashid as they rounded up 15 PTI activists in raids across the city. Police also reportedly raided residences of Fayyazul Hasan Chohan and Ijaz Khan Jazi in Rawalpindi.
In view to prevent participants of PTI long march coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Attock police have sealed the three main entry points at Attock Khurd, Haroon Pull and Khushal Garh. “The lane coming for traffic from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the bridges have been sealed with containers while traffic coming from Islamabad is being allowed to pass on the other lane,” a local source told Voicepk.net.
According to the source, a contingent of Frontier Corps is expected to be deployed on these points ahead of long march on May 25. Around 3,000 police offcials from the district are deployed on the entry points in Attock.
Section 144 imposed in Punjab and Sindh
The federal government as well as the governments of Sindh and Punjab decided to impose a ban on gatherings under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
All kinds of gatherings of five or more persons, processions and rallies and demonstrations at any public place within the Revenue Limits of District Islamabad were prohibited for two months, according to a notification issued by the deputy commissioner.
The capital police have requested a contingent of 8,000 Punjab Constabulary personnel along with 2,000 Anti-Riot Unit officials from Punjab, 2,000 officials from Sindh and 4,000 Rangers personnel in view of the PTI long march.
The Punjab government stated in a notification that assemblies, rallies, gatherings and sit-ins could serve as a “soft target” for terrorist attacks.
In another notification, the Sindh Home Department stated that the province’s inspector general of police had informed authorities that some political and disgruntled elements were planning to trigger the acts of “unlawful assembly” with the intent to “block roads, highways and organisation of sit-ins”.
“Therefore, the Sindh government, in exercise of power under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, does hereby impose ban on assemblage/gatherings of five or more people, staging of demonstrations and rallies across the province for a period of 30 days with immediate effect,” reads the notification.
HRCP express concern over political polarisation
In a statement, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was gravely concerned by the escalating polarization in the country, particularly Punjab. “To have raided the homes of PTI leaders and supporters early this morning, including a raid on the home of retired justice Nasira Iqbal, was deplorable.”
HRCP also strongly condemned the murder of a police constable at a PTI activist’s home in Lahore during a similar operation.