ISLAMABAD: Supp­or­ters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will take to the streets in Punjab’s provincial capital today (Wednesday) to kick off the ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ wherein “more than 200 supporters” would court arrest.

In preparation for the drive, the social media wing of the PTI remained busy throughout the day, with party workers and leaders sharing messages motivating supporters to become part of the “phase-wise” court arrest drive.

“Fill up prisons and shatter the idols of fear,” said PTI chief Imran Khan in a video message on Twitter. In an apparent bid to muster up support for the movement, the former ruling party also took out rallies in multiple cities, including Faisalabad, Kasur, and Sheikhupura, on different pretexts.

In Lahore, PTI central provincial president Yasmin Rashid chaired a meeting to take stock of the situation in light of the court arrest drive to be launched today. The top brass of the PTI, however, will not give up their freedom on day 1.

Section 144 imposed in Lahore; Sana says govt will arrest miscreants, not ‘women and poor workers’

Some mid-tier leaders, including former Punjab governor Umer Sarfraz Cheema, Senator Waleed Iqbal, former provincial minister Murad Raas along with more than 200 workers would court arrest in the first phase of the movement.

According to ARY News, the opening day of the movement would start with a meeting to honour the party members at 12:30pm. After the meeting, the party supporters would march towards The Mall — where Section 144 is imposed — via Jail Road to give themselves up for arrests. In case, the government refused to detain the PTI activists, the rally will morph into a sit-in at Charing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly.

After Lahore, Peshawar will witness the launch of the court arrest drive on Feb 23. Rawalpindi will follow on Feb 24, Multan on Feb 25, Gujranwala on Feb 26, Sargodha on Feb 27, and Sahiwal on Feb 28. Faisalabad will join the movement on the first day of March.

Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, who is the focal person of the Jail Bharo Tehreek, appeared confident about the success of the movement and said the party had sought 200 volunteers for the first day of the drive but more than 2,000 have signed up for the drive. He said those party leaders, who would contest the upcoming by-polls on the PTI platform, would not become part of the drive.

Speaking to the media, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said the party and its top brass were ready for the court arrest movement. “Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar insisted that they would give themselves for arrest on the first day of the movement,” he said, adding that for now the leadership thinks that the party should move forward with a strategy.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI’s drive would test the capacities of the prisons and the police stations as hundreds of workers have come forward on the call of the party chief.

As he termed it a “unique event” in the history of Pakistan, Mr Chaudrhy said that no political party had ever “dared” to start a movement where its workers and leaders would volunteer for arrests. The PTI leader said this movement is against human rights violations, sky-rocketing inflation, and the deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Asad Umar, a central party leader, in a brief interview shared on PTI’s Twitter handle said that the movement was aimed at gaining freedom for the nation. The PTI supporters would give up their “individual freedom” for the 220 million people of this country.

“In my personal opinion, the date for election would be announced before things would go to that stage,” he added. Mr Umar, however, did not mention if he would go to jail today.

‘Miscreants’ to be arrested

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the PTI’s arrest drive was aimed at creating political instability and a law and order situation in the country. The PTI is seeking media attention by creating a drama through the ‘court arrest drive’, APP quoted him as saying.

The meeting decided that the miscreants would be arrested and the law and order would be ensured in the country at all costs.

“The arrest of women and poor workers would be avoided,” the participants agreed. The minister said the record of miscreants would be maintained and their activities would be mentioned in their character certificates issued by the police.

A day earlier, the Punjab government imposed Section 144 on The Mall, Gulberg Main Boulevard as well as outside the Punjab Civil Secretariat and its adjoining roads to prohibit all kinds of assemblies, sit-ins and processions.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2023

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