• Magistrate issues warrants in PA violence case
• PTI blames home minister for ‘botched’ operation
• PML-N terms move ‘attempt to please Imran Khan’, questions issuance of arrest warrants
LAHORE: The Punjab police raided the residences of at least a dozen Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPAs in several cities of Punjab after warrants were issued for their arrest for their alleged involvement in the violence witnessed in the Punjab Assembly during the chief minister’s election on April 16.
The warrants were issued after Qilla Gujjar Singh police approached a local court in Lahore seeking the arrest of the lawmakers for their failure to join the investigation, despite the issuance of several summons.
However, the lawmakers managed to evade police and flee to Islamabad, where the PML-N is at the helm of affairs.
The raids on the PML-N leaders’ homes were ordered by the ruling coalition in Punjab, which consists of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q).
Police teams were dispatched to the homes of PML-N lawmakers in Lahore, Gujranwala, Narowal, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, and Sahiwal.
PTI leaders blamed the “poor strategy” of Punjab Home Minister Hashim Dogar for this botched operation to arrest the PML-N MPAs involved in alleged hooliganism on April 16 during the chief minister’s election in the Punjab Assembly.
“Mr Dogar has been forewarning the PML-N men about their arrest in the PA attack case by making public announcements for quite some time. Did he consider these lawmakers a fool to stay in Punjab after his threats?” a PTI leader quipped.
In contrast, the Shehbaz Sharif administration in the centre quietly conducted the ‘Shehbaz Gill operation’, the PTI leader told Dawn. “How could any of the nominated PML-N MPA be arrested today when the possibility of action against them was announced over a week ago?” he asked.
Punjab IGP Faisal Shahkar did not respond to Dawn’s query regarding police raids to arrest the PML-N MPAs.
‘Performance to please Imran’
The PML-N, however, provided footage to the media pertaining to the raids. The party’s information secretary in Punjab, MPA Azma Bokhari, termed these raids the “over-performance of Hashim Dogar to please” PTI chief Imran Khan.
“Punjab police raided the residences of 12 PML-N MPAs in the province but failed to arrest any of them. They have probably gone to Islamabad,” Ms Bokhari said as she questioned the issuance of the arrest warrants against the party lawmakers.
“PTI lawmakers attacked the deputy speaker [on April 16] and indulged in hooliganism on the day of the chief minister’s election; we even have the CCTV footage to support our claim. The FIRs should be registered against the PTI lawmakers instead of the PML-N MPAs,” she alleged in a comment to Dawn. She said all nominated lawmakers would seek protective bail in the wake of the issuance of warrants for their arrests.
The ‘wanted’ PML-N MPAs include former Punjab home minister Attaullah Tarar, his brother Bilal Tarar, the party’s Punjab Secretary General Sardar Awais Leghari, Rana Mashhood, Maryam Nawaz’s close aide Saiful Malook Khokhar, Mirza Javed, Abdur Rauf, Pir Ashraf Rasool, Pir Khizar Hayat Khagga, Raja Sagheer Ahmad, Bilal Farooq, and Rana Manan.
Qilla Gujjar Singh police filed an application with the magistrate at Cantonment Courts pleading that the suspects had not joined the investigation despite summons issued to them. Subsequently, the magistrate issued warrants for their arrest, prompting provincewide raids.
PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar, who was the home minister during the three-month stint of the PML-N government in Punjab, had spearheaded the registration of cases against the PTI and PML-Q lawmakers for their alleged involvement in hooliganism in the Punjab Assembly.
However, July 17 by-polls turned the tables in Punjab as, after its thumping victory, the PTI nominee Parvez Elahi managed to replace Hamza Shehbaz as the chief minister of the province. Now, the PTI-PML-Q used the same episode of violence to hunt the PML-N men.
Earlier this week, sensing a police action, PML-N’s Tarar exited Punjab to enter the federal capital along with some other PML-N stalwarts. Although he secured a protective bail from the Islamabad High Court (IHC), he did not return to Punjab to join the police investigation in the said case.
While reacting to these warrants, the former Punjab home minister recorded his protest. “The arrest warrants seem to be a reward from Chaudhry Parvez Elahi in return for our elders’ favours to him. We will face this political victimization as this is a frivolous case,” Mr Tarar said in a tweet.
It may be noted that ousted premier Imran Khan had directed Mr Dogar to go after the ones involved in the May 25 violence against the PTI activists, but the provincial government has yet to initiate any action against the previous administration in this regard.
The PTI leadership says ‘brutal action’ against its party leaders and protesters during the May 25 ‘peaceful’ long march on Islamabad was unleashed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and PM Shehbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shehbaz, who was the chief minister of the province at the time. Hamza Shehbaz is in London for an “indefinite period”. The PML-N said he had gone there to see his three-year-old daughter who has cardiac issues. About Mr Sanaullah, the PTI is insistent that the interior minister will pay for his role in the May 25 crackdown on PTI supporters.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022