LAHORE: The police claim to have recovered a huge cache of illegal arms and ammunition from the vehicles and houses of Bajash Khan Niazi and his relative Zubair Niazi, the general secretary of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Lahore.

The weapons recovered by the police included 13 Smart Machine Gun (SMG) rifle, six rifles (223 bore), three pistols, 10 local magazines, 96 magazines of SMG and 26 magazines of pistols, 50 boxes of live bullets, and six mega cartons containing huge number of bullets.

Lahore Operations DIG Sohail Chaudhry told Dawn thatthe police feared the lethal weapons were to be used by the PTI leaders in Lahore while taking out a rally to Islamabad.

He said the arms were contained in some hidden parts of the five vehicles including two Vigos and a Parado which reached the house of Bajash Niazi at a private housing society in Chuhng area.

“We faced severe resistance by the housing society’s management to make entry into the premises of the colony when the police chased the suspected vehicles,” the DIG said adding that Bajash was owner of the Niazi Transport Company while Zubair is senior officer-bearer of the PTI.

He said the police received [intelligence] information that five vehicles carrying smuggled weapons were entering Lahore.

The police first stopped the vehicles at the Babu Sabu interchange from where the suspects managed to escape, he said adding that the police later tried to stop them at a picket in the jurisdiction of Chuhng police but they managed to breach the security.

“We kept on chasing them by taking help of CCTV cameras,” he said and added that police rounded them in a private housing society located in Chuhng police jurisdiction.

He said the unidentified drivers left two out of the five vehicles unattended on a road while others were seized from the house of Bajash and Zubair Niazi.

Iqbal Town Division Operations SP Ammara Sherazi led the police team which raided the house, the DIG said.

To a question, he denied any arrests, saying that both the PTI leaders were involved in the case.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Mr Chaudhry made an appearance in a press conference along with other police officers and the illegal weapons recovered by them.

The DIG told the media that the identity of the suspects driving the vehicles was yet to be determined. Chuhng police have registered a first information report.

Meanwhile, PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz tweeted that the Punjab Police had recovered weapons from the vehicles of the two leaders, asserting that this was the “ugly face” of the party’s Azadi March.

“Weapons recovered by Punjab Lahore police from vehicles of PTI Lahore office-bearers Zubair Niazi and Bajash Niazi. Case registered,” she tweeted. Later, Punjab government spokesperson Ataullah Tarar in a media briefing also said a “large quantity of weapons” was found from the homes of the two PTI activists. “It is now clear this isn’t a peaceful march. These people want chaos and anarchy to spread in the country.”

He also showed the photographs of the modern weapons on display that Maryam uploaded on Twitter, and listed what was found.

“What was this weaponry gathered for? We have intelligence reports. Look at these weapons”, he said.

Meanwhile, Zubair, in a video with PTI supporters, categorically rejected Maryam’s and Chaudhry’s claims, saying that no weapons were recovered from his house or cars.

“This is the same Maryam who used to say she had no property in London. And DIG sahab, don’t indulge into this fake news on their (PML-N’s) orders,” he said. “Since 8:30am, I am out of my house with my tehreekis... This is baseless news. No raid was conducted at my house, neither were my cars checked. I haven’t even met the police yet,” Zubari said.

Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz said the recovery of illegal weapons from the house of PTI leaders, including the Lahore general secretary, showed they wanted to convert the protest into a “bloody march.”

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022

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