A Lahore anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Friday approved interim bails of top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in Punjab a day after it issued non-bailable arrest warrants for them over multiple charges including alleged violations of Section 144 and attacks on law enforcement agencies on May 25 — the day PTI workers marched to Islamabad.
According to the court order issued Thursday, investigating officer Muhammad Saleem had requested the issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants for PTI leaders Mian Akram Usman, Muhammad Zubair Khan Niazi, Imtiaz Mehmood Sheikh, Mian Mehmood ur Rasheed, Mian Shafqat Mehmood, Malik Nadeem Abbas, Murad Raas, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Yasir Gilani, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, Andleeb Abbas, and Ijaz Chaudhry.
The orders were sought on the grounds of their "intentionally concealing themselves in order to avoid their arrest and their arrest is necessary for completion of the investigation".
Subsequently, the court of Judge Abher Gul Khan issued the warrants.
By Friday all the PTI leaders named in the cases arrived in court and applied for interim bails. The court accepted their requests and stopped the police from arresting them till June 17.
Last month, the Punjab police had registered a total of 42 criminal cases against PTI’s senior leaders and workers for alleged agitation in the aftermath of the long march.
It said three police officials had been martyred in the line of duty while 100 others were injured, three of them seriously, in allegedly attacks by PTI workers. Of them, 34 personnel were injured in Lahore, 48 in Attock and nine in Sargodha, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Jhelum and other cities.
Earlier, a police official told Dawn that 12 cases were registered in Lahore, five in Sialkot, four each in Rawalpindi and Sargodha, three in Mianwali, and two each in Attock and Jhelum, while one FIR was lodged in Chakwal.
'Pakistan turning into police fascist state'
In a media talk outside court after securing interim bail, Hammad Azhar accused PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah of turning the country into a "police fascist state".
"Today, we are here in front of a terrorism court, but none of us are terrorists," he said. "The people present here are those who took to the streets for a peaceful protest on May 25."
Azhar claimed that Maryam and Sanaullah had passed "special orders to include terrorism charges" in the FIRs. "The imported government today is registering FIRs against those who came out to protest peacefully ... which is our constitutional and legal right.
"Rana Sanaullah and Maryam want to make this a police fascist state so that no one can raise their voice against their greed for power," he said.
"Today, I want to ask: Where is the law and Constitution?"
The PTI leader added that the "reality behind the deaths of Maqsood 'Chaprasi' and Dr Rizwan (FIA investigator) will soon become apparent". "We will find out whether theirs were natural deaths or murders."
On the day of the Azadi March, May 25, clashes between PTI activists and police at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk were reported as the law enforcers resorted to tear gas shelling in an attempt to clear roads for traffic, which was blocked by the demonstrators on a fresh directive from the party chief to lodge protests in their respective areas, after the protesters threw stones on the police personnel while refusing to clear the roads.
When PTI’s Lahore chapter gathered its workers at Bhatti Chowk to remove barriers placed in the area to block their route to Islamabad, the police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse them and arrested over 10 PTI workers. Around 212 other party activists were picked up from other city areas.
During the faceoff, former federal minister Hammad Azhar was injured in a "direct attack" from the police. Meanwhile, the windshield of former Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid's vehicle was also broken.