Over 400 opposition workers held for ‘flouting Covid SOPs’

Published October 15, 2020
The PTI government booked over 400 workers of opposition parties, mainly the PML-N, in different parts of Punjab on Wednesday ahead of the Pakistan Democratic Movement first public show on Oct 16 in Gujranwala for violation of Covid SOPs. — APP/File
The PTI government booked over 400 workers of opposition parties, mainly the PML-N, in different parts of Punjab on Wednesday ahead of the Pakistan Democratic Movement first public show on Oct 16 in Gujranwala for violation of Covid SOPs. — APP/File

LAHORE: Violation of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) provided a ‘good justification’ to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government to book over 400 workers of opposition parties, mainly the PML-N, in different parts of Punjab on Wednesday ahead of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) first public show on Oct 16 in Gujranwala.

The PML-N alleged on Wednesday that Punjab police also took scores of PDM workers into custody from Lahore and other districts to sabotage the Gujranwala rally.

Placing of containers in Raiwind forced the PML-N to revisit its strategy regarding departure of Maryam Nawaz, who is leading her party in the PDM, in a caravan on Friday to reach Gujranwala, some 40km from here.

“Seeing the government’s intentions, we are reviewing Maryam’s departure plan to Gujranwala from her Jati Umra, Raiwind, residence,” a senior PML-N leader told Dawn. “To escape arrest ahead of the arrival of Nawaz and Maryam from London ahead of 2018 polls, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had spent a night at a worker’s residence in Lohari Gate (walled city). Maryam may also resort to similar tactics if the Buzdar administration is given a go-ahead for her detention,” believes the PML-N leader.

Read | Red Zone files: All roads lead to Gujranwala

On the other hand, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman will leave for Gujranwala in a rally from Jamia Ashrafia seminary Ferozepur Road on Friday.

PML-N revisits plan of Maryam’s travel to Gujranwala

Meanwhile, Gujranwala’s Naushera Virkan police registered a first information report (FIR) against PML-N leaders Mudassar Qayyum Nahra, Mazhar Qayyum Nahra, Gulzar Ahmed, Tariq Cheema, Dr Munir Ahmed and 250 others under sections 269 and 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for holding a public gathering without observing Covid-19 SOPs.

In Mandi Bahauddin, police booked PML-N district president Mushahid Raza, UC chairman Zulqurnain Zaman and 170 others under sections 188 and 269 of the PPC for holding a corner meeting, ignoring the Corona SOPs.

In Phalia, Bhagat police raided the residence of PPP district president and ex MPA Asif Basheer Bhagat and arrested his two servants just before the arrival of the party workers to attend a convention.

In Lahore, the PML-N said, the police arrested its local body representative Qari Hanif from Nishat Colony. In raids at the residences of Qarif Hanif and Salim Rahmat police also arrested their two employees. Police also raided the residence of former councillor M Tariq in Lohari Gate. In Wazirabad, police booked Punjab PPP vice-president and former MPA Ijaz Ahmed Samman for breaching the government’s Covid-19 rules by holding a public gathering at his residence.

In Gujrat, police impounded chairs placed at the venues of two different workers conventions being hosted by PML N leaders Haji Aurangzaib Butt and ex MPA Haji Nasir Mehmood. These conventions were to be addressed by senior party leaders Awais Leghari and Attaullah Tarrar. The PML-N lawyers wing has been directed to prepare petitions against the FIRs and arrest of the workers.

Similarly, in Sialkot district, dozens of PML-N workers were picked in different raids, while PML-N Daska office on Nisbat Road was sealed.

PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that the PTI government had been unnerved by the PDM’s first rally and launched a province-wide crackdown against its workers and leaders.

“On Oct 16 all containers will vanish just like the army of rented mouthpieces of the Imran Khan government. No matter what Imran Khan and his rented spokesperson say or do, the Gujranwala public meeting will be a resounding success,” she told a presser.

The former information minister said a flood of PDM supporters and workers would pour into Gujranwala and those who had been denied their basic constitutional rights, besides flour, sugar, medicines and jobs, would show their reaction and would not be deterred by the shallow tactics of this government.

Ms Auranzeb said the government was registering FIRs against the PDM workers on the pretext of Covid-19 protocols’ violation. “Where were these protocols when PTI’s empty chairs public meeting was held in Liaquat Bagh?

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif demanded in a tweet from London that police should refrain from arresting the PDM leaders. “Police must NOT comply with Imran Niazi’s unlawful orders to arrest PMLN/PDM workers, raid their homes or hinder their travel to Gujranwala,” he said.

PDM secretary general Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the government’s panic over this public meeting had completely been exposed. “An application requesting permission to hold the rally in Gujranwala stadium was submitted to the authority concerned on October 3, but it has yet to respond to it. The PDM will hold a rally on GT Road now. The selected PTI regime knows its public worth, that is why it is resorting to tactics to sabotage the PDM public meeting,” he said. PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said the PTI government was doing all it could to harass and sabotage the PDM rally. He said the journalists who went to cover the police raid at PML-N youth wing leader Shoaib Butt were also baton-charged by the police and their equipment was damaged.

PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah said if the PDM’s public meeting was hindered by use of coercion, it would have dire consequences. — Waseem Ashraf Butt also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020

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