LAHORE: As the PML-Q-PTI coalition government in Punjab tightens the noose around close aides of the Sharif family in the province in various cases, the PML-N leaders have flown off to the ‘safer confines’ of Islamabad, where their party is in power, to evade arrest.
The Lahore police on Saturday initiated action against the prime minister’s special assistant Atta Tarar, a ‘blue-eyed’ associate of Hamza Shehbaz, as well as former PML-N minister Rana Mashhood in the Punjab Assembly attack case (registered by Chief Minister Parvez Elahi over hooliganism during the chief minister’s previous election on April 16).
A police team raided both PML-N leaders’ residences here, but returned empty handed as the suspects had managed to escape to Islamabad. Another PM’s assistant, Malik Ahmad Khan, who is also wanted in this case, is already in the federal capital.
In the current scenario, it appears the PML-N’s main Punjab leaders may not dare enter the province for fear of arrest, as are some leaders of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf exercising caution against visiting Islamabad after Shahbaz Gill’s arrest in Banigala. In this Punjab vs the Centre fiasco, neither side — PTI or PML-N — is ready to lower the political temperature.
The PTI leadership has already declared unlawful, the police action against its party leaders and protesters during the May 25 ‘peaceful’ long march on Islamabad, allegedly unleashed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and PM Shehbaz Sharif’s son Hamza, who was the chief minister then.
Hamza is said to be the ‘main character’ in the alleged torture episode of the PTI leadership in Punjab, and sensing danger had already managed to leave the country for the UK.
Sanaullah was alleged by the PTI to have employed ‘fascist’ means to stop party supporters from reaching Islamabad on May 25. The PTI stresses Sanaullah will have to pay for this. The interior minister has warned the Punjab government that any action against him will aggravate tensions between the Centre and Punjab, and lead to imposition of the governor’s rule on the province.
Sanaullah is currently in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, and may not be able to enter Punjab in the wake of his impending arrest as threatened by the Parvez Elahi administration that is acting on direct orders from ousted premier Imran Khan.
On the other hand, on the directions of the Sharifs, the interior minister has ordered the FIA to go hard against Mr Khan and other PTI leaders for their alleged involvement in the prohibited funding case. Ex-minister Fawad Chaudhry of the PTI also warned that if the Banigala residence of Mr Khan is raided, Jati Umra — the Sharif’s palatial abode — in Lahore will bear the brunt.
In a tweet, Atta Tarar said police raided his residence in Lahore where he lived 15 years ago. Addressing the Punjab home minister, Tarar said: “Mr Hashim Dogar, I thought you were a minister, but you turned out to be a very frivolous character. What are you trying to prove by sending police to the house I lived in 15 years ago? You will run the ministry in this situation? Do not go that far to defend anti-national statements.”
Mr Dogar responded to Tarar on Twitter, saying the PML-N leader had absconded to Islamabad. “If the politician (Tarar) understands the law, he should follow the police’s order,” he said.
Lahore police chief Ghulam Mahmood Dogar told Dawn.com that notices were sent to Tarar and Rana Mashhood to appear in an investigation into the Punjab Assembly attack case.
However, PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry and focal person Azhar Mashwani claimed action against Tarar had been initiated in connection with the torture of party workers on May 25. “Tarar should come out of hiding to clarify his position,” Chaudhry remarked.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2022