Shahbaz Gill arrested for 'exhibiting weapons publicly' during Punjab by-polls: police

Published July 17, 2022
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill in a police van after he was arrested in Muzaffargarh. — Twitter/Shahbaz Gill
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill in a police van after he was arrested in Muzaffargarh. — Twitter/Shahbaz Gill

PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was arrested from Muzaffargarh on Sunday for allegedly carrying and displaying weapons on his visit to polling stations PP-272 and PP-73 during the Punjab by-elections.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in its election code of conduct for political parties and candidates, says: "Carriage and display of all kinds of lethal weapons and fire arms shall not be allowed in public meetings and processions and official regulations in respect thereof shall be strictly observed. Aerial firing, use of crackers and other explosives at public meetings shall not be allowed."

The district police officer of Muzaffargarh told Dawn.com that Gill was taken into custody from a factory owned by PTI candidate Muazzam Ali along with his guards. They have been taken to an undisclosed location, he said.

So far, a first information report (FIR) has not been registered.

Earlier, visuals circulating on television showed Gill with guards clad in Frontier Corps uniform. Prior to his arrest, the PTI leader had tweeted that he was ready to get arrested but refused to let the police take his guards or other party workers into custody.

"Before you reach anyone else, I am presenting myself for arrest," he tweeted, claiming he was "trapped in a factory". "Imran Khan's soldier is not afraid of such tactics. We did not come to do terrorism."

Separately, in a video posted on his YouTube channel, Gill alleged that polling agents in Muzaffargarh's PP-272 had not been allowed to enter the polling stations. "We reached out to the ECP but they refuted the complaints. Now, they have sent police to take my guards. What is their purpose? They want to arrest me," he said.

"So, I will do you a favour and present myself for arrest," the PTI leader said. "As long as I am standing here, I won't let you arrest anyone."

Later, a tweet surfaced on the politician's Twitter account revealing that he had been taken to the Saddar Ali Pur police station.

'Local administration empowered'

In a press conference later in the day, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the local administration was empowered to take decisions to maintain the law and order situation, promising that the government would support such measures.

His comments came in response to a question regarding Gill's arrest. "If the officer in charge of overseeing electoral arrangements feels that Shahbaz is misbehaving or has been accompanied by men with no legal status, they could take whatever decision they felt was right."

Sanaullah also suggested the Gill should cooperate with the police and must surrender.

PTI leaders call arrest 'fascist'

Immediately after the news of Gill's arrest surfaced, PTI leaders took to Twitter to condemn the move and branded it an attempt to "rig the elections".

PTI chief Imran Khan said: "These fascist tactics will not work and our people will not be deterred from exercising their right to vote."

In another tweeted later, he demanded the courts to "open now" and act against the brazen violations of the Supreme Court's orders and electoral rules.

Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that the ECP was "making a mockery of the electoral process in Punjab" and called the arrest "shameful abuse of power".

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry urged other party leader to be prepared for arrests, saying that police gardi (police brutality) was underway across Punjab.

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