LONDON: As members of the embattled Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf face a slew of cases, late-night arrests and even alleged enforced disappearances, representatives of the party in the United Kingdom and Europe have sprung into action by staging protests, writing to MPs and speaking with human rights organisations to inform them about the crackdown against the party at the hands of the PDM government.

PTI’s focal person for UK and Europe Sahibzada ‘Chico’ Jahangir said the party doesn’t want anything from the international community, but it is certainly calling upon the Pakistan government to hold free and fair elections.

Talking to Dawn, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the party is launching a report on Tuesday (tomorrow) which summarises “all the human rights violations against PTI from May 25 till now”.

The protests and demonstrations overseas took place shortly before senior PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar in Islamabad met diplomats and ambassadors from the European Union.

Fawad says paper on rights violations to be launched tomorrow

Though no one from the party is commenting on the details of these meetings with diplomats, a source familiar with the matter said the crackdown against PTI, and the details of specific incidents have been communicated to these diplomats.

“The European countries specially are very pro-democracy and pro-human rights,” the source said, adding that though “it is obvious no intervention is expected, they are keen to know our point of view regarding what’s going on”.

The source added that the PTI decided to work on this outreach as the diplomats engage with the government and are already aware of the government’s point of view.

“Now our perspective has been given to them, regarding what happened in Zaman Park and the [Federal] Judicial Complex.”

Separately, PTI member and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser approached the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global organisation of national parliaments, about the “political victimisation, assassination attempts and attacks on PTI”.

Mr Qaiser wrote a letter to the IPU, which has 179 members, in which he criticised the PDM government as being “fascist” and accused it of “illegal policies and severe violations” of human rights.

Mr Qaiser hoped the forum would take notice of the situation and play its role in protecting the people of Pakistan.

Protests in UK, Europe

In the last week, large PTI protests have been held in London outside Parliament House and 10 Downing Street, as well as a sizeable demonstration in Brussels outside the European Parliament.

At each of these protests, chants in favour of Imran Khan and against PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif were heard. PTI supporters also chanted slogans against and waved about posters criticising the army chief.

Speaking to Dawn, PTI’s focal person Sahibzada ‘Chico’ Jahangir said: “PTI is actively involved in UK and Europe, so we have not needed to say much to people to come out and protest. The people you see at the protests have families in Pakistan. They send billions in remittances each year back home so they are disturbed about what is happening”.

Mr Jahangir confirmed that British Pakistanis are writing letters to their respective MPs, apprising them of events back in Pakistan and demanding that they raise the issue in Parliament. In the past, the British Pakistani community has written to MPs to bring various issues to the attention of the British Prime Minister, such as regarding Covid-19 and red list restrictions on Pakistan.

When asked what the party hopes to achieve through these protests, he said: “We don’t want anything from the international community. But we have a demand for the Pakistan government: free and fair elections. Here [in the UK] we live in a democratic society… if a government loses people’s confidence, they leave. There is stability.”

He said that PTI representatives in London will be meeting UN bodies and human rights organisations to tell them “human rights are being suppressed in Pakistan”.

“We have gone so deep down in the gutter. We are seeking help from people who understand and who have created these organisations to give us support.”

In London, PTI activist Shayan Ali, famed for leading an aggressive anti-Nawaz campaign here, urged supporters to gather outside Mr Sharif’s flat in Park Lane to “protest against fascism”.

He also urged overseas Pakistanis to send letters to their MPs apprising them of the situation in Pakistan.

The efforts by the PTI locally and abroad are reminiscent of the campaign that was kickstarted by overseas Pakistanis when Mr Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.

In the past, ahead of elections in 2013, a similar PTI-led campaign was seen when thousands of PTI supporters complained to British authorities, including police, about the MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

It prompted then British High Commissioner Adam Thomson to say that action against the MQM chief could not be ruled out, with an acknowledgement that the London police department was investigating complaints by hundreds of British Pakistanis.

PTI to launch report

Speaking to Dawn, Fawad Chaudhry said PTI is launching a report on Tuesday which summarises “all the human rights violations against PTI from May 25 till now”.

He alleged that the government in Pakistan is involved in “crimes and custodial torture for political reasons”.

When pressed on the allegations of a political witch-hunt led by PTI when Mr Khan was in power, Mr Chaudhry said: “This is a false parallel, it’s rubbish. There is a difference between what happened then and now. Yes, what happened to Matiuallah Jan and Absar Alam were crimes similar to what’s happening now. But PTI had no part in it.”

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2023

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