Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Saturday warned former prime minister Imran Khan to ensure that PTI's long march on Islamabad was "peaceful" and "political", asserting that the government won't allow an anarchy-like situation to persist in the country.
"They will have to give [the government] assurances that the march will be peaceful, political and democratic," Sanaullah said at a media talk outside the Lahore district and sessions court, where he had attended a hearing of a drugs case filed against him by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).
In his conversation with reporters, he criticised Imran and his predecessor Sheikh Rashid for "inciting" and "misleading" the public against the government.
"Even yesterday, he (Imran) told his supporters not to spare anyone. I am warning you for the last time — not as a minister — but as the president of PML-N Punjab. If you don't let go of these tactics and keep encouraging your supporters to disrespect members of other parties, you will face the same fate too. You won't be able to escape from it."
Sanaullah was referring to the PTI chairman's remarks in the address he made at the party's Mianwali rally. The ex-premier had told his workers that neither containers placed on the route could stop them from their march on Islamabad nor could the interior minister.
He had also accused Sanaullah of committing 18 murders.
In his talk today, the PML-N leader warned Imran that if he didn't mend his ways, the PML-N too would instruct its workers to "catch and beat them up".
"This is your misconception that you will be able to cause anarchy or chaos in the country. Nothing will happen," Sanaullah told Imran. "They [the supporters] will become human beings after a few thrashings."
He also excoriated Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Sheikh Rashid for his "ignorant" and "misleading" comments against the government. "You told people that this march will be bloody. I am warning you to take your words back or I won't let you step out of your house."
They, the minister continued, would have to provide the government with assurances that the march would be peaceful, political and democratic.
He further demanded of PTI to "distance" itself, condemn and apologise for the Masjid-i-Nabwi incident, where Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet members were heckled by Pakistani pilgrims last month.
Sanaullah said there was pressure on the government from religious groups to pursue cases against [the PTI] for what happened in Saudi Arabia. "But we don't want this. Ahsan Iqbal was attacked [in the past]. We want them [the PTI] to at least apologise."
"We know they were your people. They have been identified. Take action against them," he added.
Immediately after his talk, PTI leader Farrukh Habib took to Twitter claiming that the popularity of Imran Khan's "Azadi March" had started making the government's "legs quiver".
"This is a fascist government which is threatening to destroy the peace and order of the country. It wants civil war in the streets," Habib added.
'March aimed to save Farah'
Rana Sanaullah also said that Imran Khan's march on Islamabad was aimed at protecting Farah Khan — a close aide of the PTI chairman's wife Bushra Bibi who has been accused of corruption by the opposition, and against whom a NAB inquiry has been launched.
"There have been a series of accusations [one of which is] that Usman Buzdar was appointed the chief minister of Punjab to take instructions from Farah," he said. "He collected billions of rupees in postings and there are transactions that show this money was sent abroad."
The minister further alleged that Imran's amnesty scheme was "introduced for Farah because she greatly benefitted from it".
"These are just accusations. But unlike them (PTI) we wont present accusations as evidence. We are inquiring into these allegations and a reference or case will only be initiated once we find credible evidence," he added.
Earlier in the day, the court resumed hearing the drug case filed against the interior minister by the ANF.
At the outset of the hearing, the prosecutor said that possessing drugs was illegal and that the case challan had been prepared. "We have the chemical examination report, 15 witnesses and forensic evidence against the accused persons. They should now be indicted," he demanded.
Meanwhile, Sanaullah's lawyer, Syed Farhad Ali Shah, submitted an application requesting that his client be granted permanent exemption from appearing in the court as he had several engagements after assuming responsibilities as a federal minister.
Subsequently, the court issued a notice to the ANF and sought further arguments from the lawyers of the three co-accused. The hearing was later adjourned till May 21.
On July 1, 2019, Sanaullah was arrested by the ANF Lahore team while he was travelling from Faisalabad to Lahore near the Ravi Toll Plaza on the motorway, claiming to have seized 15kg of heroin from his vehicle. A special team of the force had also arrested five others, including the driver and security guards of the PML-N leader.
The FIR was lodged under Section 9(C) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, which carries death penalty or life imprisonment or a jail term that may extend to 14 years, along with a fine up to Rs1 million.