LAHORE: Several audio leaks apparently involving Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders on Wednesday seem to suggest the party leadership was instigating its workers to attack the Lahore’s Corps Commander’s House in Cantonment.

While some leaders were urging party workers to gather at the Corps Commander House, party ticket-holder Ibad Farooq claimed PTI central Punjab President Dr Yasmin Rashid had clearly instructed them to set it to fire.

Dr Yasmin Rashid, presently on the run to avoid arrest, told Dawn that it was a “doctored audio clip” as she had never instructed anyone to torch the house. “I have just gone there to stage a sit-in to protest her leader’s arrest.

Dr Rashid said some workers had even tried to persuade her to storm the airport and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s residence in Jati Umra “but I was asking them to return to the Liberty Roundabout for a sit-in there.”

The PTI leader alleged that her party’s opponents in power had also fielded their workers who sabotaged and ransacked the army house in Lahore. “This was a complete conspiracy.”

She said party chief Imran Khan had given clear instructions to all leaders and workers to remain peaceful and added that she kept asking workers through megaphone to remain calm. She also condemned all those who stole various household articles from the army house.

According to her, it was surprising that no policeman or soldier was guarding the Corps Commander’s House when charged workers reached there.

Dr Rashid recalled that she was very much concerned when PTI workers had responded violently to the police operation to arrest Imran Khan from Zaman Park on March 15. In an audio clip leaked then, she was talking to President Dr Arif Alvi, urging him to tell Mr Khan to give in and fight another day“. She went on to say that petrol bombs had been thrown on police and a water canon had been set ablaze. “If Khan sahab does not give in, the situation warrants that some people or some policemen may die.”

Dr Rashid said some 100 policemen had raided her residence on Tuesday night, damaged a computer, a phone set and some household articles. She said the police had entered her home after breaking the windows, took her husband and brother Sajid Nabi Malik. “Later, the police released my husband but the whereabouts of Sajid Nabi Malik were still unknown,” she added.

In a leaked audio clip with party leader Ijaz Minhas, Dr Rashid can be heard asking whether she along with workers should move to the Liberty Roundabout or continue sitting there.

As Mr Minhas suggested her to ask other leaders, she expressed her ignorance about “them”. The party leader suggested her to move to Liberty Roundabout since they had left the sit-in venue (purportedly Corps Commander House). “Since you left the venue, the Liberty Roundabout is the best place to sit,” he stated and suggested her to give a call for the night.

In a tweet, PTI central Punjab president urged party workers to “protest, but do not take law in your hands. Beware of rogue elements from other parties/institutions, engaging you to resort to illegal methods”. She said the PTI was fighting for Pakistan.

In another tweet, she stated the PTI senior leadership was being arrested after the arrest of Imran Khan. She also said the protesters and supporters, including women and children, were being attacked and added internet services and social media had been blocked.

In yet another purported leaked audio clip, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry could be heard telling another person – believed to be his son Ali Chaudhry – the protesters had ransacked the Corps Commander House and everything in the house including the flowerpots had been destroyed. He stated three people also sustained bullet injuries.

When Ali Chaudhry asked that shots were fired as well, Senator Chaudhry replied in the affirmative saying first they fired shots and then a burst of gun fire and added that three people were hit by bullets. “Nothing is left in the house. From flowerpot to everything has been blown away,” the PTI senator added. Senator Chaudhry’s son remarked that “Myth has been broken”.

There are some other party leaders’ leaked audio clips discussing protest demonstration at the Corps Commander’s House.

PROTEST: Meanwhile, Lahore on Wednesday wore almost a deserted look as there was thin traffic on roads and the police blocked Liberty Roundabout and Canal Road near Zaman Park to control PTI workers’ protests. Still a large number of party workers managed to reach the Liberty Roundabout to stage sit-in.

Meanwhile, owing to blockade of roads, the PTI leaders announced shifting the protest venue from Liberty Chowk to party office at Jail Road, which was also cordoned off by the police Police reportedly raided various PTI leaders and activists’ homes and arrested them or their relatives present there.

PTI leader Shirin Mazari tweeted that the police also launched another attack with heavy shelling at Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence, when his wife along with some domestic staff was at home.

WHEEL-JAM: PTI central Punjab general secretary Hammad Azhar has given a call for “Wheel-jam strike” on Thursday (today) and closure of all markets in Lahore to express solidarity with party chief Imran Khan.

Mr Azhar tweeted that peaceful protests will continue till the release of Mr Khan and urged the party workers to be alert from “certain Gullu Butt elements” joining their ranks.

The PTI leader also tweeted that police resorted to heavy shelling and use of water cannons towards protesters. “They are literally attacking their own citizens – incredibly disgusting,” he lamented.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2023

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