LAHORE: PTI social media activist Azhar Mashwani was picked up on Thursday, apparently on charges of criticising the Punjab police and the caretaker government for allegedly using high-handed tactics against party workers.

The arrest of Mr Mashwani, a former focal person for digital media in Punjab, prompted PTI chief Imran Khan to say, “enough is enough”, as he accused the authorities of abducting the party activist.

“Enough is enough. Police in Punjab and Islamabad are breaking all laws with impunity as they target PTI. Today Azhar Mashwani was abducted in the afternoon from Lahore and his whereabouts are unknown,” the former prime minister tweeted on Thursday and demanded Mr Mashwani’s immediate release.

On March 18, Senator Shibli Faraz and Omar Sultan were “badly beaten” by Islamabad police, Mr Khan said, insisting that they both had permission to be inside the Judicial Complex, where the PTI chief went to attend a hearing in the Toshakhana case day.

Mr Khan said his nephew, Hassaan Niazi, was abducted immediately after getting bail and later charged with “sham FIRs” to keep him locked up.

Former PM says sending pictures of Punjab, Islamabad IGs to international human rights organisations for ’criminal behaviour

“I am sending pictures of IGs [inspectors generals] of Punjab and ICT [Islamabad Capital Territory] and of all officers indulging in this criminal behaviour” to international human rights organisations, he said, “so they can identify those working for the state and indulging in abductions, illegal break-ins into homes, custodial torture and violence against political leaders and unarmed workers of PTI.”

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that Mr Mashwani had been “abducted” after the Punjab’s inspector general of police allegedly used threatening language against the party activist.

In a Twitter post, he said Mr Mashwani should be immediately presented before a court and his offence be explained. “If the IG police thinks he will not even be criticised after torturing and killing party worker Zille Shah, he is living in a fool’s paradise,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Earlier in the day, the PTI also alleged that party worker Malik Qaiser, a union council president in Lahore’s Data Ganj Bakhsh town, was also abducted by the police because he was actively working for the preparations of a PTI rally planned for March 25 at Minar-i-Pakistan.

“Today is March 23 and we are facing the worst kind of fascism,” a PTI leader tweeted. Another said, “The country is being ruled by kidnappers and traitors with literally a jungle rule. The country has become a banana republic.”

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2023

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