• Spokesperson says ex-minister wanted in three cases
• Hammad says visited party office to meet spokesperson injured in attack, to seek interim bail from Peshawar

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Hammad Azhar, who had remained in hiding for almost a year following the May 9 violence, on Wednesday evaded a team of the Counter-Terrorism Department which raided the PTI secretariat in the capital to arrest the former minister.

According to the police, the raid was in response to a tip-off about the presence of the PTI leader at the party’s head office. The police cordoned off the premises and subsequently searched the building thoroughly but could not find Mr Azhar.

The police remained there for over an hour, but they were informed that the PTI leader had left the building more than 30 minutes before the swoop.

The police spokesperson, while speaking to Dawn, confirmed the raid by the CTD. The PTI leader was wanted in three separate cases by the capital police, two registered with Ramna police and one with the CTD registered last year, the PRO said.

Speaking to journalists at the Secretariat before the police raid, Hammad Azhar said: “I received a message from Imran Khan last night after the attack on Raoof Hassan. He directed that it is now time for me to join the party leadership.”

Following an attack on PTI central spokesman Raoof Hasan in Islamabad on Tuesday, Imran Khan instructed all party leaders in self-imposed hiding to come out to lead the party.

Hammad Azhar, also the president of the party’s Punjab chapter, was the first leader to make a public appearance at the party’s Islamabad secretariat after almost a year in hiding. Besides Mr Azhar, PTI senior leaders Murad Saeed and former Punjab minister Mian Aslam Iqbal had also gone underground almost a year ago.

Mr Azhar had earlier announced that he would appear at a protest being organised by the party a couple of months ago but did not appear for “fear of arrest”.

Speaking to mediapersons, Mr Azhar said he wanted to come out in the public but was stopped by founder chairman Imran Khan. “Mr Khan had sent me a message that I should stay in hiding as the ‘fascist’ government will torture me,” he said, while explaining the reason behind his hiding.

Mr Azhar said that he had come to the party secretariat to meet injured central spokesman Raoof Hasan and added that he would return to Peshawar to appear in the court to seek interim bail. In the next phase, he said, he would appear before the courts in Punjab and added “Allah is very kind”.

Answering a question, Mr Azhar said the founder chairman had asked all party leaders in hiding to come out and lead the party.

According to Dawn.com, Mr Azhar said he would fight “all the 51 or 52 fake cases” against him in Punjab courts, adding that, “I’m not guilty in any of them”.

According to sources, the party’s senior leader, Murad Saeed, had also appeared at the Islamabad secretariat. It may be noted that PTI President Chaudhry Parvez Elahi has been released from jail after bail from the court; however, his son Moonis Elahi remains in self-imposed exile.

Meanwhile PTI Information Secretary Raoof Hasan at a presser condemned the raid on the party’s central office by the Islamabad police, who cordoned off the entire office and did not allow anyone to enter or leave the premises.

He said that a UN delegation was present at the office to discuss the electoral process when the police entered the premises without a search warrant.

He said upon inquiry, the police claimed they had come to arrest Hammad Azhar, however when asked about a search warrant they refused to produce it.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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