LAHORE: Amid reports of a province-wide crackdown, the provincial capital police detained nearly 200 workers and local leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ahead of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam’s return to the country on Friday (today).
A majority of the detainees were the union council chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors of the party.
There were some conflicting reports about the exact number of arrests as the police claimed they took 170 party workers into custody while the PML-N leadership claimed it to be over 400.
Police claim 200 arrests; PML-N says over 400 detained
Interestingly, an independent candidate for PP-156 and 154 Babar Iqbal was also detained by the police.
He was among 64 PML-N workers who were sent to the Ichhra Central Jail, according to official documents available with Dawn.
The documents say their detention orders were issued for a period of 30 days under sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960.
The police also arranged more than 30 containers to block major roads of the provincial capital.
The containers were being placed by the roadside on the possible routes of the former premier Nawaz Sharif on Thursday night and some will be placed on major arteries on Friday anytime to block the routine traffic operations and to prevent from PML-N workers from moving towards Lahore airport.
For this purpose the police shortlisted 50 major sites of the city besides exit/entry points including Thokar Niaz Beg, Multan Road, Ravi Road, Ferozpur Road, Kahna, Harbanspura, Garhi Shahu, Davis Road, Bund Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Babu Sabu Interchange, Mozang Chungi, Model Town-Link Road, Bhatta Chowk, Shahdara Chowk, Azaadi Flyover, Raiwind Road, Ring Road, airport and its surrounding areas.
There were also some reports that the Punjab police authorities planned closure of all interchanges of main cities of the province on Motorway (M2) leading towards Lahore.
Similarly, all routes towards Islamabad Airport will also be sealed in case of Nawaz’s shifting to the Adiala Jail.
The Punjab Rangers personnel have been deployed at the entry/exit points of the city to respond to any emergency situation in addition to police.
There were conflicting reports as to who had actually issued directions for large-scale crackdown on the PML-N workers and supporters in Lahore, the stronghold of the party.
Home Minister Shaukat Javed clarified his position saying the caretaker government has nothing to do with the ongoing arrests of the PML-N workers.
“The police authorities decided it [crackdown] on their own,” the home minister said.
He, however, claimed that the crackdown was launched on ‘troublemakers’ of all the political parties under a uniform policy for violating the election code of conduct.
On the other hand, the police employed an aggressive strategy as most arrests came from residences and party offices of the workers where the armed personnel reportedly made their forced entries to ensure maximum number of arrests.
The raiding teams entered the premises by scaling walls, breaking doors of the offices and residences of the party workers besides using ladders.
The sources said there were some serious complaints that policemen allegedly harassed and roughed up families of the party workers when they protested violation of sanctity of home.
In cantonment area, the police teams arrested some party supporters when they were having lunch at restaurants on Thursday along with their families and busy in shopping in markets.
The police even didn’t spare the close relatives and friends of the party workers as they raided their homes and offices to make arrests.
The police action remained the talk of the town when the PML-N senior leadership strongly reacted to what they called it misuse of authority, claiming that most arrests came from homes where the workers were peacefully spending time with their families.
The party leaders claimed that the police arrested over 300 PML-N workers while the police authorities said they were 160.
Nearly 100 party workers and supporters were detained in midnight operation on Wednesday and over 50 others from morning to evening on Thursday. Reports of arrests in other districts also poured in.
An official privy to the information told Dawn that the city-wide operation was supervised closely by Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) B A Nasir and Operations DIG Shahzad Akbar.
While chairing a meeting on Wednesday noon, the CCPO had provided lists of the activists and supporters of PML-N to divisional SPs of the provincial capital to initiate a crackdown.
Lahore Operations SSP Asad Sarfraz told Dawn that nearly 160 activists were detained in the crackdown which had been launched on Wednesday night.
He said the police prepared lists of the party workers on the basis of the intelligence reports that they might create law and order situation in the city.
“We acted on the information of the district government authorities and detained the party men under section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance,” the SSP said and rejected the allegations of misuse of authority.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018