LAHORE: The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) on Monday arrested PML-N Punjab president MNA Rana Sanaullah Khan in what is said to be a narcotics case involving proscribed outfits.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has termed the government’s move a “worst example of political victimisation” and warned that such tactics to push the opposition against the wall would backfire.
An ANF team arrested Mr Sanaullah, a vociferous critic of Prime Minister Imran Khan, on his way to Lahore from Faisalabad on Motorway at around 3pm at Sukheyki. Although the ANF chose to not give details of his arrest, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Shehryar Khan Afridi confirmed his arrest, saying “ANF has arrested Rana Sanaullah. He is my colleague but no one is above the law”.
His brother-in-law Rana Sheryar said some 15 vehicles of the ANF and Elite Force Punjab took part in the raid to arrest Mr Sanaullah. “The raiding team intercepted Sanaullah’s car at Sukheyki. It took him into custody along with his driver and three guards and probably took him to the ANF Lahore Cantt office,” he said.
In a related development, police in Faisalabad, the hometown of Rana Sanaullah, raided the houses of various PML-N activists and arrested over a dozen people, apparently to forestall the PML-N’s protest in the wake of his arrest.
Opposition party warns such tactics will backfire; ANF says narcotics recovered from Sanaullah’s vehicle
Interestingly, Mr Sanaullah, a former provincial law minister, recently claimed that Prime Minister Khan had on his visit to Lahore directed the chief of Anti-Corruption Establishment Punjab to trace “some material” against him so that he could be fixed. “Subsequently, the ACE Faisalabad head was communicated to come up with something against me.”
Imran Khan during the election campaign last year had vowed to send Mr Sanaullah to jail. Addressing Mr Sanaullah, he had said: “I will drag you to jail by holding you from your moustache. You will be sent to Adiala jail.”
Mr Sanaullah is perhaps the most vocal leader of the PML-N who would take on Imran Khan strongly both in and outside the parliament. He in the past used to demand the search of Banigala residence of Imran Khan to find drugs.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz expressed surprise over the development. “What has ANF got to do with Rana Sanaullah? It could not get more absurd. He has been arrested for his bold & courageous stance. Jaali-e-Azam (fake prime minister) being the small & petty minded man that he is, is directly behind his arrest. Make no mistake,” she tweeted.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari termed the PML-N firebrand’s arrest a “desperate” measure of the PTI government. “Arrest of President Punjab PMLN by Anti-Narcotics Force is obviously desperate attempt at political victimisation. Sanaullah has been a vociferous critic of PPP in the past & is currently one of the most vocal critics of the regime. Arrests expose govts weakness & desperation,” he tweeted.
Mr Sanaullah had on Sunday declared that he would lead the PML-N workers to besiege the residences of the ‘turncoat MPAs’ who recently met Imran Khan. He not only targeted the premier by calling him selected — a word now banned in parliament — but also used different ‘expressions’ to take on Special Assistant to the PM on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan.
A PML-N insider said Mr Sanaullah was strongly in favour of launching a protest drive against the government and his arrest would create problems for the party if it decided to take to the streets.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif has called a party meeting in Lahore on Tuesday (today) to discuss Mr Sanaullah’s arrest.
Condemning his arrest, he said: “The arrest of Rana Sanaullah is uncalled for and without any evidence. Selected prime minister Imran Khan is behind this move. The PTI government is taking mean tactics to push the opposition against the wall. I want to tell Imran Khan that the PML-N cannot be cowed down through such tactics and in the end he and his government will be the losers.”
Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party criticised the arrest, terming it “political victimisation”. He said, “the arrest will not help in creating a conducive political and democratic culture in the country”.
Meanwhile, the District Bar Association Faisalabad announced strike on Tuesday against the arrest of former Punjab law minister. “District Bar Association Faisalabad has strongly condemned and announced strike on Tuesday against the illegal, unjustified and politically motivated arrest of learned member of this bar, Rana Sanaullah Khan advocate. It demands for his immediate release by adopting due course of law,” the bar’s secretary said.
PML-N workers staged a demonstration on the Samundri Road and threw traffic out of gear. They said they would continue their protest till his release.
ANF spokesperson Riaz Soomro late on Monday night issued a statement, saying that “narcotics has been recovered from the vehicle of Rana Sanaullah Khan”.
The media also quoted Ms Awan as having claimed that some 15kg of narcotics was recovered from Mr Sanaullah’s car.
Mr Soomro said Mr Sanaullah had been arrested in the light of various evidence against him and he would be presented before a court on Tuesday (today) for his physical remand.
He said a case had been registered against Mr Sanaullah under the Narcotics Act.
Meanwhile, the wife of Mr Sanaullah said the ANF was not allowing her or any other family member to see him.
“Rana Sanaullah needs medicines,” she said and urged the authorities concerned to allow her to see “him for a few minutes so that I can hand him over his medicines and also see whether he is fine”.
Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2019