Imran Khan says 'police brutality' on Azadi marchers 'condemnable and unacceptable'

Published May 29, 2022
Law enforcers trying to stop PTI protesters from entering the Red Zone in Islamabad on May 25. — Photo by Shakeel Qarar
Law enforcers trying to stop PTI protesters from entering the Red Zone in Islamabad on May 25. — Photo by Shakeel Qarar

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has posted on Twitter a video montage of alleged police brutality on his Azadi marchers on May 25 and termed it "condemnable and unacceptable".

Imran Khan's march for haqeeqi azadi — true freedom — was preceded by the authorities invoking of Section 144, a measure used to curb gatherings. Shipping containers were put in place on major thoroughfares to block their path.

Undeterred by the moves, the marchers, who tried to force through the containers to make their way to Islamabad, were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse them. Police also charged at them with batons.

"Condemnable and unacceptable," the former prime minister said on Sunday. "Flouting the Constitution and Supreme Court orders, this criminal imported government unleashed police brutality on our peaceful Azadi March protesters."

The night before the march, there were subsequent police raids on PTI leaders' residences. "Night before our march, Punjab and Sindh police violated PTI members' homes, harassing the families," he added.

In one such raid carried out on the eve of the march, a policeman was killed. The party and the coalition government blamed each other.

The march ended on March 26 without a sit-in at D-Chowk, which Imran promised would occur until dates for elections are announced. In a speech to supporters just short of D-Chowk, Imran told the government to announce dates for the elections, failing which he would return in six days.

That same day Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif resisted Imran's "dictation" and said in a speech in the National Assembly that the House would decide when elections would be held.

The abrupt end to the much-vaunted long march has since triggered speculation on the circumstances that led to its end. However, Imran has hit back at such suggestions, insisting there was "no deal with the establishment", and that he pulled back to avert "bloodshed", as his supporters were "ready" and a "sense of hatred" had emerged in the wake of the police response.

Yesterday, Imran said his party will be moving the Supreme Court on Monday (tomorrow) to seek protection for their right to a peaceful protest. He also announced petitioning high courts to seek registration of cases against those responsible for using force against his party workers during their march on the capital.

“We have decided to take up the matter at all forums, the Supreme Court, the high courts and human rights organisations internationally,” he told a press conference after presiding over the PTI’s core committee meeting.

'Devastating consequences' of using force

Former planning minister Asad Umar, too, tweeted on Sunday, highlighting the "devastating consequences" of using force to "suppress popular movements".

"History of Pakistan shows devastating consequences of attempts to suppress popular movements through use of force and intimidation," Umar said.

"Those short-sighted men thinking they can crush the most popular mass mobilisation in Pakistan's history, will never be forgiven by history."

Separately, Fawad Chaudhry, the former information minister, called on the government to not "underestimate the people's anger" as they are "angrier than expected". He conceded that there were some "mistakes" that the PTI made that the situation "led to this stage", without elaborating further.

He also asked if the Zardaris and Sharifs would run Pakistan "for the next 40 years", and if those decades would be "wasted" like the past years.

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