• Says clampdown on PTI an attempt to ‘roll back democracy’
• Alleges govt ‘maltreating women prisoners’
• Unfazed by exodus from party, ex-PM reiterates demand for polls
• Minister calls out ‘venomous propaganda’
LAHORE: Terming the clampdown on the PTI an attempt to roll back democracy, Imran Khan requested the Supreme Court judges on Sunday to take notice and ensure a judicial inquiry into the May 9 violence so that only the “guilty should be punished”.
Speaking about the PDM government’s alleged efforts to “cripple the PTI through a streak of desertions”, Mr Khan said the government could continue ‘pressuring’ party leaders and make as many defections as it wanted to do in the “next two, three or even four weeks”. “But, then give a timeframe for elections,” the PTI chief demanded while speaking to supporters through a video link from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
The former prime minister asked the PDM government to give a timeframe and announce elections to steer the country out of political and economic crises. “I am not demanding elections for my power but for the sake of the country,” he said. “Let the people of Pakistan make their choice in the next elections.
“Don’t destroy the country in your efforts to keep Imran Khan away,” the PTI chairman implored.
Referring to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s late-night presser, Mr Khan said, as he tweeted earlier in the day, that his all doubts had been cleared that the incumbent caretaker government in Punjab was “maltreating women”. According to Imran Khan, “I have heard about ‘rape’ of PTI women political prisoners.” He did not give evidence to corroborate his allegations.
A day earlier, the interior minister claimed that the intelligence “agencies intercepted a conversation, revealing disturbing plots and planned actions, including a raid on the PTI leader’s house and a staged rape”. The minister, without providing proof, said that the objective was to falsely implicate law enforcement agencies in the crime and to subsequently raise the issue at an international level.
In an allusion to the presser, Mr Khan claimed the minister addressed the news conference, fearing the women would tell horror stories about the treatment meted out to them in the jails or some gory incident had already happened and the government wanted to pre-empt the fallout.
“Never ever in Pakistan, women have been maltreated as the PDM and Punjab’s caretaker governments doing,” he said. In a tweet, he claimed that there were “increasingly [sic] reports coming that some of the women are being molested and harassed in jail”.
Suo motu notice
Mr Khan stressed the Supreme Court should take suo motu notice and issue directions to release women political prisoners, who were peacefully protesting while using their fundamental rights.
He said a judicial inquiry was also necessary to identify those who fired and killed 25 unarmed protesters and injured hundreds of protesters. He said some 10,000 political prisoners had been imprisoned without investigations, while vandalism and arson were reported from a few places in the province.
Regretting that the Supreme Court decisions were not being complied with, the former prime minister referred to the court’s direction regarding the production of journalist Imran Riaz Khan and demanded the court should initiate contempt of court proceedings against the IG Punjab. “The Supreme Court is slowly conceding its power to the powerful,” Mr Khan claimed.
Claiming that the apex court was not taking a stand against the violation of fundamental rights, Mr Khan said: “History will remember that the Supreme Court did not fulfill its responsibility when the fascist government was rolling democracy back.”
The former prime minister said the PDM government was committing excesses against PTI workers and women since May 25, 2022. “Our fundamental rights are being trampled with every passing day,” he regretted.
The PTI chairman said the PDM government was looking for an opportunity to oust the PTI from the election arena. He said they were unleashing terror against women to keep them away from mainstream politics. “The PDM government wants to depoliticise women and keep this half population away from mainstream politics,” he lamented. “This is a negation of democracy,” he added.
Separately, the PTI also sought a high-level inquiry into the treatment meted out to political prisoners, particularly women, detained in jails across the country.
In a statement, PTI Information Secretary Rauf Hassan urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial to initiate an inquiry into “harassment, maltreatment of political leaders and prisoners, especially women. Mr Hassan alleged that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah’s midnight presser was a virtual confession of “heinous crimes” which the government was committing on political internees, most notably female prisoners. The PTI leader said that after the interior minister’s presser, “credible doubts have been cast on the welfare of political internees, particularly women”.
He called upon the CJP to immediately initiate a high-level enquiry to look into, how political prisoners, especially women were being treated in the prisons across the country and how raids were being conducted on residences of PTI leaders and workers in abject violation of law and principles of sanctity of homes.
“The matter has assumed immense importance after the presser as it is believed that it is a crude cover-up of their crimes and an attempt to implicate PTI and its workers,” he maintained.
PTI Senator Faisal Javed also called on the CJP to take action and demanded that female prisoners be released from jails. “Where are the champions of women’s rights today and will they not at least raise their voice. People in other political parties especially women and the media must take a stand and speak up for women’s rights,” the PTI leader added.
Meanwhile, caretaker Punjab information minister Amir Mir sharply responded saying that the PTI chairman was busy doing “propaganda” with regard to treatment being meted out to women prisoners. “The so-called political party is doing venomous propaganda to secure public sympathies,” he said.
Mr Mir said the law enforcement agencies had arrested 32 women out of whom 21 had already been released. At present, he said, 11 women were in jails on judicial remand and being treated as per law.
Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023