‘Hundreds’ arrested in province-wide swoop on PTI activists

Published March 26, 2023
Commuters were left stranded for hours after the authorities closed different city points to stop PTI workers from attending the Minar-i-Pakistan meeting. The picture shows a gridlock at the Ravi bridge. — White Star / Murtaza Ali
Commuters were left stranded for hours after the authorities closed different city points to stop PTI workers from attending the Minar-i-Pakistan meeting. The picture shows a gridlock at the Ravi bridge. — White Star / Murtaza Ali

LAHORE: Punjab police in a province-wide crackdown arrested hundreds of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers, claiming to have averted chaos and violence and blocked roads to maintain law and order.

All the deputy commissioners had handed over lists of PTI workers to police for their arrests.The PTI workers were also tweeting videos of the police raids on their houses. The police could be seen standing outside the houses of PTI office-bearers.

Police raided the house of PTI leader Usman Dar in Sialkot who said that a team surrounded his residence so that the workers could not attend the Lahore event.

In another raid, Muzaffargarh police detained Azam Malik, chief reporter of daily Baithak Multan, for supporting PTI.

Mr Malik said his name was not included in the list prepared by the DC office.

Imran claims 1,600 workers nabbed; Qureshi speaks of 1,800 arrests

He claimed that hundreds of others [besides PTI workers] were also detained by the police. “An old man standing at a tandoor to buy rotis was also picked up as a PTI worker and was detained in a lock-up with me,” he said.

Malik claimed that the policemen were not making arrests as per the lists but they were randomly detaining the people to show the arrest and it [somehow] benefited the PTI.

He said he had to remain in the detention of police for four to five hours and later his office contacted the senior officers who managed his release.

A team conducted a raid on a PTI senior leader – a candidate from PP-158 – Mehtab Hussain’s residence in Lahore but he was not present.

In Multan, the police arrested the son of former MPA Javed Akhtar Ansari in a raid and took PTI workers into custody across the district.

Several team nabbed a number of PTI workers in other cities including Mian Channu, Lodhran, Vehari and Faisalabad.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that as many as 1,800 activists were arrested. However, Imran Khan during a talk with the media [on way to Minar-i-Pakistan] said police nabbed 1,600 workers.

Qureshi said despite the Lahore High Court allowing political gatherings, the government had placed containers in different parts of the city to create hurdles for PTI workers.

He urged the workers to avoid violation and not take law in their hands.

Meanwhile, the district administration placed containers and trucks to block thoroughfares, including entry and exit points in the provincial capital.

Police placed barricades on major roads of the city including Ravi Bridge and Thokar Niaz Beg, the major entry and exit points of the city. The move caused a great deal of inconvenience for commuters.

City Traffic Police Lahore tweeted that following roads were closed for traffic. “Lohay Wali Puli towards Sabzi Mandi, Lorri Adda towards Sabzi Mandi, R/O Lorri Adda towards Sabzi Mandi, both sides of old Ravi bridge, both sides of new Ravi bridge, Barkat Pulli towards Shahdara, Masti gate towards Railway Station, Railway Station towards Masti Gate, lk Moria bridge towards Railway Station, Railway Station towards Ik Moria from beneath and flyover, Bohar Wala Chowk, Railway Road, Brandreth Road and Hafiz hotel, District Chowk towards Workshop Chowk both sides, Peer Makki U-turn both sides, Retigen Chowk towards SSP corner,” it said.

The police have asked people to take alternate routes.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Siddique Kamiyana said police did not block any road and citizens were allowed to enter the city after proper checking to ensure security.

He said some steps were taken to avoid any untoward incident and it should not be taken as blocking the roads.

He said they were ensuring the security of the participants and barricade and containers were placed for their protection.

He said the citizens were allowed to go anywhere after thorough security checks.

Meanwhile, Punjab police issued a threat alert on Saturday evening, warning that “Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIA)” were planning to destabilise the country by targeting PTI and their gatherings.

A copy of the alert available with Dawn states that “credible information” was received that HIAs were trying to capitalise on the “prevailing political polarisation, and law and order situation by targeting the leadership and gathering of PTI to destabilise the country by creating a chaotic situation.”

It added that foreign intelligence agencies contacted Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) commander Mukarram Khurasani to “cause instability in the country by whatever means”.

The threat alert predicted that the JuA commander “could have specifically assigned” Imran Khan as the top target.

Other targets include people gathered at Zaman Park, PTI’s gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan on Saturday and rallies carried out by the PTI, it added.

The threat alert warned that the terrorists might use the uniforms or vehicle of the police or any law-enforcement agency “as a deception ploy to hit their targets”.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023

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