• Hammad Azhar accuses govt of using female workers as weapons
• Police say only 15 PTI women arrested across Punjab
LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: A senior PTI leader on Tuesday reiterated allegations that the government was using imprisoned PTI women workers and supporters as a weapon against the party through blackmail, harassment and illegal arrests, whereas the Punjab police, including the top cop in the province, have vehemently refuted such claims.
PTI leader and former minister Hammad Azhar lashed out at the government for allegedly “breaking all records of barbarism and tyranny” and praised his party’s women for standing up to such “vile tactics”.
“Women have been used as a weapon by this regime,” he said in a tweet accompanying a short clip of two women being escorted by Punjab police officials apparently on a court premises. The women’s heads were covered with plastic shopping bags.
“The arsenal has been manifold; blackmail, harassments, threats, illegal arrests and perhaps even more. But women have also stood up against these vile tactics and shown tremendous courage,” Mr Azhar added.
The government has rounded up hundreds of people after the May 9 violent protests that erupted across the country after PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest.
In a separate tweet, he said the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) government was only capable of oppression and couldn’t run the country.
The rulers, he said, had “completely failed to settle matters with the IMF. The economy has crashed and the fear of Imran Khan is still on their nerves”. He feared economic conditions to worsen in the coming days.
Similar allegations have been levelled by the PTI chairman in recent days.
Punjab IG refutes claims
But the inspector general of police in Punjab, Dr Usman Anwar, dismissed allegations that women in custody were being mistreated, abused or tortured.
Talking to reporters at his office in Lahore on Tuesday, he claimed that several social media accounts who shared old video footage and pictures of such torture on women in custody had been identified and legal action would be initiated against them.
He lamented the “fabricated information” shared on social media recently regarding the rape and torture of PTI woman leaders and workers who are in jail or custody.
Flanked by Punjab Prisons IG Mian Farooq Nazir and Lahore Investigation SSP Anoosh Masood Chaudhry, the IGP regretted that “social media influencers” were spreading lies that the women released from jail had cuts and wounds on their bodies.
He said some of such accounts had been traced and sent to the Federal Investigation Agency for legal action.
“The posts, pictures or videos posted by the social media influencers regarding women in the last few days has nothing to do with the May 9 incident,” he said, stressing that the Punjab police were all set to initiate legal action.
Mr Anwar clarified that there were around 150 cameras to monitor jail staff and prisoners and no male staff had ever interrogated a woman.
Ms Masood, the investigation SSP, also dismissed reports that imprisoned PTI women were being mistreated.
She said that total 15 women belonging to the PTI had been arrested in Punjab in connection with the May 9 riots. Of them, 11 were in Lahore’s jails and two others were in a Rawalpindi prison.
“No male jail staff can enter the special women’s cell of the jails where these women were kept,” she said, adding that the lady doctors, including the gynaecologists, were also attending them accordingly.
The police officer said she had visited the jail and met all the detained women, including fashion designer Khadija Shah.
She said Ms Shah had been given medicine for asthma and another woman had been given medicine for skin disease.
She said PTI leader Yasmin Rashid had been allowed to meet the visitors since she was on judicial remand.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023