‘Tepid response’ as only five PTI leaders court arrest in Pindi

Published February 25, 2023
RAWALPINDI: Supporters of former premier Imran Khan climb a prison van and chant anti-government slogans during a rally at the Committee Chowk, on Friday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star
RAWALPINDI: Supporters of former premier Imran Khan climb a prison van and chant anti-government slogans during a rally at the Committee Chowk, on Friday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star

RAWALPINDI: After Lahore and Peshawar, PTI’s Jail Bharo Tehreek (court arrest movement) moved to Rawalpindi on Friday, but an ‘unimpressive’ show resulted in only five leaders courting arrest.

The leaders along with 42 party workers, who voluntarily presented themselves for arrest, were booked for one month under the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, 1960, Rawalpindi division RPO Syed Khurram Ali has confirmed.

The PTI — which won six National Assembly and 12 Punjab Assembly seats from the city — could only manage to find five leaders who were willing to court arrest.

These included former MNA Sadaqat Abbasi; former MPAs Fayazul Hasan Chohan, Latasub Satti and Ijaz Khan Jazi; and Zulfi Bukhari.

The party’s local chapter had announced a list of 10 leaders for the court arrest movement including Amir Kiani, Wasiq Qayum, Sadaqat Abbasi, Arif Abbasi, Umer Tanvir Butt, Rashid Hafeez, Ijaz Khan Jazi, Fayazul Hasan Chohan, Chaudhry Adnan and Sajid.

More than 40 PTI workers booked for 30 days under MPO

Some notable leaders said they decided not to court arrests due to the directives from the party’s higher-ups.

Sheikh Rashid Shafique, former MNA and nephew of former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told Dawn that he was stopped by PTI divisional head Amir Kiani from courting arrest.

“I, along with Rashid Hafeez, Wasiq Qayum and a few other leaders, were directed by PTI divisional head Amir Kiani to not surrender,” Mr Shafique told Dawn.

He explained that Mr Khan would arrive on February 27 to appear before the Islamabad High Court and they had been tasked with mobilising workers for his welcome.

Disillusioned workers

Although workers and supporters gathered at the Committee Chowk on Murree Road, they opted not to present themselves for the arrest.

According to sources, several PTI workers had ‘symbolically’ courted arrests but those who wished not to go to jail were later released.

A senior party leader told Dawn that local representatives were tasked with bringing at least 100 workers and supporters each from their constituencies but the turnout “was lower than expected”.

He said that at a divisional meeting three days ago, the leaders expressed their reservations and informed the local leadership of difficulties in convincing people to court arrest.

The workers were assured that a team of lawyers had been formed which would get them freed within a day or two of arrest, the leader said, adding that workers “refused to buy the story.”

The PTI official said workers were miffed at local leaders, who, they claimed, did nothing for their welfare while being in power for almost four years.

“After I saw that former health minister Amir Kiani did not surrender, I also went back home,” the PTI leader told Dawn.

“Why should I court arrest if central leaders were not interested in obeying the directives of Imran Khan,” he said.

Mr Shafique said that he led a rally of over 200 people from Lal Haveli to Committee Chowk.

He claimed that more than 200 party workers and supporters were ready to surrender themselves to the police. “The workers wanted to obey the directives of the PTI chairman and did not hesitate in becoming part of the movement.”

Mohammad Asghar also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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