LAHORE: The Lahore police department has marked over 1,000 leaders, hardcore activists and financiers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Inaf (PTI) for their ‘preventive arrest’ in view of the party chairman Imran Khan’s call for another long march on Islamabad as the six-day deadline he had given to the government ended on Tuesday.
Of them, 329 people marked by the Lahore police are allegedly big financiers who provide funds to arrange transport, food, sound systems and other “logistic support” to the PTI during the agitation.
Similarly, another list comprises 743 persons who are the members of national and provincial assemblies, party ticket holders, leaders and hardcore activists involved in mobilising the party workers.
The police, according to sources, conducted the exercise after the former prime minister on Sunday last asked his supporters on reaching the federal capital to prepare for the next long march, giving a six-day “deadline” to the government for announcing fresh election in June.
There are reports that the PTI chairman has conveyed to the party’s top leadership from Lahore that the provincial capital has assumed greater importance for the party to muster up massive support to “inject some strength into the agitation for launching another march on Islamabad”, says a senior police official.
Following the call for another long march, he says, the police high ups held meetings of divisional superintendents (SPs), other supervisory officers and the station house officers (SHOs). In these meetings, these officers were assigned different tasks after the final lists of over 1,000 leaders and workers of the PTI in Lahore shared with them, he adds.
The police officer says the lists were prepared on the basis of the information provided by the SHOs, the special branch and the other concerned wings of police department.
“We have divided the two lists in A,B and C categories,” he says, adding the PTI leaders and activists who fall in the category ‘A’ have been marked as ‘trouble makers’ and ‘violent’.
For their arrest, he says, the police department has formed special teams who have been given instructions in debriefing sessions as how to nab them and contain their movement.
He says the police have detailed assessment reports about the “violent activities” of the PTI leaders and workers in category ‘A’ with regard to taking out rallies and other activities during the past protests staged by the party. “Many of them are among the richest people of the city, including traders, industrialists, transporters and businessmen,”he says.
They used to finance the PTI rallies and public gatherings to show street power, the official said adding that they were also key elements who have been behind the food supply to the participants or the mass gatherings for many days.
He says the Lahore police have finalised the arrangements to make ‘preventive arrests’ of those mentioned in the lists in different meetings attended by all the six divisional SPs and the 85 SHOs posted the city.
To a question, he says the police high-ups will largely follow the same strategy that was employed to neutralise the PTI’s previous long march in Lahore. The option of imposing Section 144 in the provincial capital and making arrests under MPOs are also being considered by the Punjab government, he adds.
The police officer further says the police will launch the crackdown on these people after receiving orders from the Punjab government.
Separately, a police source says the Lahore police authorities have directed the city SHOs to make arrangements for the provision of containers to block major roads of the city to contain the ‘marchers’ in Lahore.
The security has also been beefed up at the exit and entry points of the city, particularly, at the Batti Chowk in Shahdara, where violent clashes were witnessed between the PTI workers and the police during the party’s previous long march, the source says.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2022