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LAHORE: As the government is reportedly planning to arrest all those Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders and workers nominated in cases of ‘hooliganism’ during a rally staged to welcome Nawaz Sharif on his return here from London on July 13, the party is not interested in securing pre-arrest bails or getting the cases quashed.

“We believe that the cases are bogus and registered by the authorities after seeing the response the Lahorites gave on the return of the former prime minister. We won’t move courts for obtaining pre-arrest bails for the leadership to expose how far the caretakers can go in their bias against the PML-N,” party’s central media coordinator Mohammad Mehdi told Dawn by phone on Sunday.

“The response to the welcome rally panicked the powers that mattered and they took it as a harbinger of electoral success of the PML-N on July 25. Through the cases they wish to test our nerves and we’re determined to pass this test like our Quaid,” he asserts.

At least 20 FIRs have been registered against the PML-N leadership. Prominent among them are former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, ex-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-chief minister and party president Shahbaz Sharif, party chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, ex-ministers Amir Muqam, Saira Afzal Tarar, Pervaiz Malik, Rana Sanaullah, Rana Mashhood, Hamza Shahbaz, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Uzma Bukhari, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Kamran Michael, former lord mayor retired Col Mubashir, Bilal Yasin, Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman, Javed Hashmi, Tallal Chaudhry and Waheed Alam Khan.

There are more than 6,000 leaders and ‘unknown’ activists named in the FIRs.

PML-N Lawyers Forum senior vice-president Khawar Ikram Bhatti says they haven’t yet received any instructions from the party to apply for pre-arrest bails of the main leadership.

Terming the caretaker set-up’s Friday action worse than what had been seen under any martial law, he laments that a non-violent person like Raja Zafarul Haq has also been booked under terrorism charges.

In reply to a question, Mr Bhatti says that of 460 union council level leaders and active workers detained before the rally under MPO-3, possessing “illegal” arms, and other laws, at least 141 have been released on the Lahore High Court orders, while the rest will hopefully be set free in a couple of days.

Punjab Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam said indiscriminate action was taken against the people for violating the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) across the province.

He said police had registered 130 cases against 17,606 persons in the province during the last four days and 270 of them had been arrested. Lahore police vowed to take across-the-board action against the nominated and unidentified people involved in attacking security officials and damaging public and private properties.

The government had lodged 12 FIRs with different police stations of the city under terrorism and other charges, including inciting PML-N workers, pelting stones, violating Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the ECP code of conduct, besides holding illegal assemblies and rallies.

Out of the 12 FIRs, three each were registered in the Civil Lines and Cantonment divisions and two each in City, Saddar and Iqbal Town divisions. Senior Superintendent of Police (investigation) Awais Malik told Dawn that they had earlier arrested 11 suspects and produced them before the court to get their remand.

He said they had contacted the Safe City Authority to get CCTV footage of all the spots where PML-N workers had attacked police officials. He said the CCTV footage would be sent to the National Database and Registration Authority to identify the attackers.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018