LAHORE: Police have taken into custody three officials of the Punjab Assembly reportedly in the assault case in which some assembly members and policemen were tortured during election for the office of chief minister back on April 16.

A spokesperson for the assembly says that three officers of the secretariat have been arrested by the police, while police guards have been appointed outside the residence of assembly secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti.

Those arrested included research officer Shehbaz Ahmed (grade-17 employee), who is attached with the assembly secretary, security officer Ghulam Murtaza and junior security officer Muhammad Ali. Sources said they were reportedly identified through CCTV footage torturing then opposition members and policemen.

Speaker Elahi condemns arrests

The spokesperson says the police also raided the residence of Hamza, personal staff officer to Speaker Parvez Elahi, but could not arrest him as he was not at home at that time.

SSP (investigation) Imran Kishor confirms that the police have taken into custody three officials in the assault case. He says Mr Bhatti has not been arrested as he is on bail and has promised to join the investigation on Monday (today).

Police have earlier attempted to arrest the assembly secretary, considered close to the speaker, under the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi has strongly condemned the arrests, saying the “child ruler” should refrain from such tactics and should not retaliate against the assembly officials. He says police action exposed the ‘revengeful’ faces of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz.

The Punjab Assembly had on April 16 descended into chaos, which quickly turned into outright violence, leaving many injured, including Speaker Parvez Elahi, who was contesting the polls for the CM’s slot as a joint candidate of the PTI and PML-Q against PML-N and PPP nominee Hamza Shehbaz Sharif.

Hamza was elected by securing 197 out of 371 total votes amid boycott by Mr Elahi and his supporters after violence in the house which erupted as soon as Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, who was supposed to preside over the polling under a high court order, entered the hall to chair the session.

The PTI-PML-Q lawmakers threw plastic lotas at him, while some of them assaulted him, dragging him by his hair and even thrashed him.

The assembly guards rescued Mazari and took him back to his chamber as the protesting PTI and PML-Q MPAs, meanwhile, broke the speaker’s chair, microphone and a side-table, and threw around various articles, including files, in the house.

It took around three and a half hours to call in anti-riot police amidst strong protest and violence. The PML-N MPAs lost patience when several private guards of Mr Elahi (wearing assembly force’s uniform) as well as plainclothesmen entered the hall from the rear entrance. The intruders were thrashed and thrown out of the house, furthering the mayhem that spanned over five hours.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2022

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