BY FARID SABRI
- Govt arrests hundreds of PTI and allied parties workers
- PM, Chaudhry Nisar, Shehbaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar meet COAS
- FC troops put PTI chief under house arrest
- Around 158 PTI workers rounded up by police and FC men at PTI youth convention
- PTI chief calls for countrywide protests on Friday
Government authorities unleashed a wave of countrywide arrests of the workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allied parties on Thursday night, apprehending hundreds of workers across the country following a police crackdown on PTI youth convention in the federal capital.
Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held an emergency meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar between 4:00 pm and 5:30pm. According to TV reports, the meeting was held at the residence of army chief in which the highest civil and military leadership discussed the prevailing political and security situation in the country.
After the high-level meeting, over 60 troops of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) reached PTI chief Imran Khan’s residence at Bani Gala and surrounded his premises, TV reports said. Speaking to a TV channel, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that Imran Khan’s residence had been completely sealed. He said that he was accompanying the party chief at his residence.
Authorities arrested hundreds of workers associated with the PTI and its allied parties overnight. According to TV reports, over 500 workers were arrested from Rawalpindi, 50 from Attock, 200 from Chakwal, while dozens were being arrested from other cities across the country.
Police also raided the residence of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed in Rawalpindi, arresting dozens of workers. TV footages showed scenes of workers being dragged out of the building as police sought to seal the building.
Earlier in the evening, PTI chief Imran Khan issued a call for countrywide protests on Friday (today) after Islamabad Police stormed party’s youth convention and arrested at least 158 party activists and workers. “We had told the government that we would remain peaceful if they remained peaceful, but now the movement will take a different direction,” Khan told a hurriedly-called press conference at his Bani Gala residence. “Arrests can’t deter our movement against the corrupt regime,” Khan said as he challenged the government to arrest him on Friday (today) when he would be attending Sheikh Rashid Ahmad’s rally at Laal Haveli. “Arrest me under Section 144 if you can,” he went on to say.
The PTI chief also questioned the current democratic system in the country, remarking, “What kind of a democracy is in Pakistan when we are jailed for practicing our democratic right.” He said the government’s attempt to stop his party’s November 2 rally from taking place would only result in chaos. “Our gathering on November 2 will be decisive and historic,” averred Khan.
After party chief’s presser, PTI workers and supporters took to streets in Karachi, Multan, Peshawar, Lahore, Attock, Chakwal and other cities and held sit-ins at major thoroughfares, chanting slogans against the police crackdown on party activists in Islamabad.
The government meanwhile claimed the PTI had not sought permission from the Islamabad administration for the youth convention organised by its students’ wing Insaf Students Federation (ISF).
POLICE CLAMP DOWN ON PTI WORKERS:
Earlier in the evening at around 6:00 PM, Islamabad Police cracked down on PTI’s youth convention in Sector E-11 and arrested at least 158 political workers and activists.
Scuffles broke out between the police personnel and PTI workers present at the venue of the youth convention, a banquet hall, from where the ISF workers were attacked, dragged and pushed into police vans.
The crackdown started when senior PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar arrived at the venue of the convention. Perhaps the police were waiting for their arrival to take action. Worst scenes were witnessed as police officials and FC men attacked male and female workers alike, dragging them towards police vans and then transferring them to different police station. They also sealed the hall where the convention was being held.
CLEAR DIVIDE BETWEEN AUTOCRATIC, DEMOCRATIC VALUES:
On the occasion, senior PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi questioned under what law was the youth convention stormed by law enforcement agencies and on whose orders did they (policemen) raise their arms to attack these peaceful workers.
He also demanded from the Islamabad Police chief and commissioner to immediately release the arrested PTI workers.
The PTI leader said that the action suggested that the government was in panic over PTI’s agitation movement against its corrupt practices.
Qureshi warned the administration of the federal capital that they would be held responsible if the situation worsened, saying, “You are provoking peaceful people. No one here is armed; not a single worker has stones or batons in their hands.” “There is a clear divide between autocratic and democratic values today,” he went on to say.
Qureshi also appealed to PTI workers across the country to come out on streets and take part in the sit-in on November 2.
“We will stay peaceful but at the same time will advance on Islamabad to bury this corrupt administration,” he threatened as he alleged the government had arrested hundreds of their workers and police had tortured their female party workers.
Asad Umar, who was accompanying Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said, “This act has proved what Supreme Court had said…that there was monarchy in the country in place of democracy.”
“The more you torture us, the weaker your government would become. Not only is the prime minister but the whole government is committing a suicide,” he added.
He said that “state injustice cannot stop us from protesting”. “If you want to arrest PTI workers, arrest us first. These students have done nothing wrong,” he added.
ARRESTS MADE UNDER SECTION 144:
Nevertheless, SHO Rana Ashraf, who led the police action, contended that the crackdown was conducted because the organisers had not got any no-objection certificate (NOC) from the city administration. He told Pakistan Today that no gathering could be allowed as the administration had imposed Section 144 in the federal capital. About the arrests, the police official said, “These were made under Section 144.”
Defending the police action, PML-N leader Danyal Aziz claimed that the police didn’t raid a peaceful gathering. “Those arrested were planning a conspiracy and the police did what law orders them to do,” he said while talking to media.