PTI leaders in KP ‘free to court arrest another day’

Published February 24, 2023
PESHAWAR: PTI workers try to force their way into a prison van outside Central Jail.—Shahbaz Butt / White Star
PESHAWAR: PTI workers try to force their way into a prison van outside Central Jail.—Shahbaz Butt / White Star

• Stalwarts claim they were locked out of prison, vow to return again
• Only one man shows up in D.I. Khan

PESHAWAR: A day after at least 81 supporters in Lahore went to prison as part of the party’s ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’, PTI workers and leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not appear too keen to give up their freedom for the sake of ‘real freedom’, as the day ended without any arrests.

During the day, the venue of the court arrest drive was moved to Hashtnagri from Gulbahar and it was decided to launch the movement at 2pm. However, the demonstration started long after the designated time and around 5pm, PTI leader Pervez Khattak led a convoy on foot to Peshawar’s central jail to “court arrest”.

By this time, police also appeared reluctant to arrest the PTI leaders, and after making speeches outside the prison, the protesters dispersed.

The decision was taken after Imran Khan, the party chairman, told KP leaders that he will give another call for arrests. “On the call of Imran Khan, we have waited for hours to be arrested and now have come at the jail doorstep, waiting to walk in when the administration opens its gates,” Pervez Khattak said.

Mr Khattak said that PTI workers and leaders have “proved that they do not fear arrests and would return again” to turn themselves in.

Former KP governor Shah Farman, in his speech, said that the government wanted to arrest “some senior leaders” but according to him, the movement did not mean “arrests of some leaders but all the party workers”.

‘Photo sessions’

Initially, a large number of PTI workers — approximately 400 — started to gather outside the Gulbahar police station — the initial site of the demonstration. However, the venue was later changed to the Hashtnagri.

Since KP top brass arrived in the late afternoon, PTI workers and leaders waited near the Gulfat Hussain Shaheed police station for the most part of the day in anticipation of arrests that never materialised. The supporters and party leaders spent their time taking part in photo sessions inside the prison vans parked to detain supporters.

SP city Abdul Salam Khalid quoted by Geo News claimed that the PTI workers had “punctured the tyres of prisoner vans which were deployed to detain them”. “After sitting in the prison vans for a few minutes, the workers got out of them and no one surrendered themselves,” the police officer reportedly said. A spokesperson also confirmed that police have not detained anyone in connection with the protest.

In a video that made rounds on social media, PTI leader Fazle Illahi surrounded by over a dozen supporters posed standing on the foothold of a prison van but after a few seconds, he bolted out. In another video from Swat, a police party arrived at the home of a PTI leader asking him to turn himself in. However, the PTI leader later told media persons that he was in Peshawar “for the arrest”.

In Dera Ismail Khan, only one PTI worker turned up. The district police waited for the PTI local leaders and workers, but none of them, including former minister Ali Amin Gandapur, appeared. Only one worker who came from Mandhran, a village of DI Khan, courted arrest.

In the late afternoon before marching on to the jail, PTI stalwarts, including Mr Khattak and Asad Qaiser spoke to protesters. In their speeches, Muhammad Atif Khan, Shahram Khan Tarakai, former governor Shah Farman, and Pervez Khattak criticised the government of the Pakistan Democratic Movement.

In his speech, Pervez Khattak said that the protesters would walk to the Peshawar jail and present themselves for arrest. “All of us will walk on foot to the central jail,” Mr Khattak told the crowd. He added that it would continue till the elections were announced.

Section 144

On Wednesday, the Peshawar district administration issued a notification imposing Section 144 in the provincial capital. The notification stated that there was an apprehension that gathering five or more people may create a law and order situation that may also result in a mishap due to militant activity; therefore, administration has imposed a ban on gathering of five or more persons within limits of district Peshawar.

Irfan Mughal in DI Khan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

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