ISLAMABAD, Sept 23: A crackdown on opposition leaders and activists belonging to parties in the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) alliance continued across the country for the second day on Sunday with the government having decided to use all means to stop them from staging a demonstration outside the Supreme Court on Monday, sources told Dawn.
Over 40 opposition leaders and workers were arrested on Sunday in Islamabad and scores of opposition leaders, mainly from the NWFP, were being stopped from entering the capital.
There were reports that the authorities had planned to round up around 700 political activists in an attempt to foil the opposition’s plan to stage an ‘impressive protest rally’ on Monday.
“We have written to all provincial governments that leaders and workers of the APDM and other people would not be allowed to proceed to the Supreme Court,” Chief Commissioner Islamabad Hamid Ali Khan told Dawn.
Interior ministry sources confirmed that prominent politicians and activists of the APDM would not be allowed to enter Islamabad. They include Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan.
Jamaat-i-Islami Islamabad press secretary Rao Iftikhar said that about 30 leaders and activists of his party had been arrested.
PML-N information-secretary Ahsan Iqbal said that over 10 leaders and workers of the party had been picked up by police.
There were reports that some main leaders of the APDM, including Imran Khan, PML-N’s Zafar Ali Shah, Iqbal Zafar Jhagrah and Syed Mohammad Bilal of the JI, had gone underground to avoid arrests.
Islamabad’s chief commissioner said that section 144 had been imposed and no public meeting or gathering would be allowed in the capital.
“Anybody found violating the order will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
“In the current spate of suicide bombing there is a possibility that terrorists may strike during the APDM demonstration and people would again blame the government for not taking appropriate steps to arrest such incidents,” he said.
Opposition leaders claimed that the crackdown would not intimidate the APDM into calling off the demonstration.
Interior ministry spokesman Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema on Sunday said the arrested leaders and workers would remain in detention for the ‘next few days’.
Talking to Dawn, he said that leaders and workers of the APDM had been placed house arrest or detained under 16 MPO, a law concerning maintenance of public order. “They were kept in detention so that they could be stopped from holding any demonstrations or surrounding the offices of the Election Commission,” he said.
It is believed that the detained leaders and workers will remain in detention or under house arrest till the presidential election scheduled to be held on October 6.
APDM leaders have announced their plan to launch a protest campaign against President Gen Musharraf’s bid for re-election. Under the plan, APDM parliamentarians and members of the provincial assemblies would tender their resignations before the presidential elections and surround the offices of the Chief Election Commission on the day the president would submit his nomination papers.
According to the protest programme, the ADMP leaders will meet on Sept 26 — a day before the filing of nomination papers by the president — to collect resignations.
The sources said that all entry points leading to Islamabad would be blocked on September 27 to avoid entry of opposition leaders and workers. Roads leading to the Constitution Avenue and the Chief Election Commission building would also be closed, they added.
Meanwhile, arrested leaders of the APDM, including Raja Zafurl Haq, PML-N President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, MMA leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and MNAs Mian Mohammad Aslam and Tehmina Daultana and politicians picked up on Sunday, including Adnan Kiani of the PTI and two Jamaat-i-Islami leaders Abdul Nasir and Malik Bland Ajwat, were shifted to the Adyala jail and to the Capital Development Authority’s rest-houses at Simly and Rawal dams.
Some of the opposition workers were kept in lock-ups of different police stations.
A PML-N spokesman alleged that Javed Hashmi was manhandled by some police officers when he refused to be moved from the Parliament Lodges to the jail.
Police personnel, some in plainclothes, barged into the suite of Mr Hashmi, dragged him to the gate of the building, threw him in a vehicle and drove away, the personal secretary of the PML-N leader said.
Additional Superintendent of Police Nasir Aftab told Dawn that police had arrested five leaders and 20 workers of the PML-N, JI and Shabab-e-Milli, a student organisation of the JI.