In a bid to stop the long march of the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), police launched a crackdown on the former ruling party and raided the houses of almost all party leaders forcing them to go into hiding.
In raids conducted across Pakistan, especially Punjab, the police arrested at least 150 PTI members who will be sent to jail under MPO 16 to foil the much-hyped march announced by Imran Khan.
As per sources, a list of 350 PTI supporters has been prepared. “This list has been forwarded to relevant police stations by the CCPO office and respective DSPs have been told to monitor the crackdown,” sources added.
Police have raided the houses of PTI Punjab leaders Raja Basharat, Ijaz Khan Jazi, Wasiq Qayyum, Chaudhry Amjad, Chaudhry Adnan, and Rashid Hafiz. However, they were not able to arrest any of the leaders.
The police officials also conducted raids on the residences of Babar Awan, Hammad Azhar, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Ali Naveed Bhatti, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Malik Nadeem Abbas, Yasir Gillani, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Saadia Sohail, Ijaz Chaudhry, Akram Usman, Aqil Siddiqui, Amir Riaz, Mohammad Haider.
The house of a former advisor to Punjab governor Salman Shoaib was also raided. Shoaib, in a video message, said the police violated the sanctity of the household as he vowed to avenge the raid and threatened to “drag CM Hamza Shehbaz” in Lahore.
Rawalpindi police also raided Lal Haveli, the residence of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid. Rashid and his nephew managed to evade the police, however.
In Kasur, Rashid Tufail’s house was raided as well. However, he was not home. In Shera Kot, police raided the house of Saeed Ahmed Khan. Khan alleged that police scaled the walls of his house using ladders and disregarded the sanctity of the house.
As per our correspondent in Lahore, at least 70 PTI members have been detained so far in the overnight raids.
Meanwhile, Sindh police also launched a crackdown on PTI leadership in Sindh. In a raid at the house of PTI Karachi General Secretary Saifur Rehman, police made the arrest. However, raids on the residences of Saeed Afridi, PTI Karachi President Bilal Ghaffar, Arslan Taj, and Shehzad Qureshi were an exercise in futility.
Sources said that most of the PTI leaders had moved to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to evade arrests by the police.
Sources in the police said the purpose of these raids was to throw a spanner in the long march. They added the security at the entry and exit points was also being increased.
The sources in the government said the police raids were conducted because there were reports that the “participants of the march could create a law and order situation”. They said ‘Azadi March’ will be allowed to enter Islamabad but if it tried to move towards Red Zone then the state would use all means to stop it.
The government has stepped up measures in Islamabad to brace for the marchers that are expected to descend on the capital a day later. Police have sealed the D-Chowk by placing containers and blocking the routes leading towards Red Zone.
Amid the crackdown on the PTI, another strategy is also being pondered to deal with the marchers. Sources said that it was being proposed that instead of stopping the march in its tracks, the government should allow the PTI to hold a protest at Srinagar (Kashmir) Highway.
Sources further claimed that if the PTI protesters tried to move beyond the Kashmir Highway then the government would use legal means to stop them. It was also decided that no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands and anyone found in violation of the law would be dealt with iron hands. It is being said that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah will be assigned the task after a meeting of the coalition parties.
The former ruling PTI has come up with multiple plans to evade arrests by the police and circumvent the security deployed to stop the march. According to PTI sources, the march will be turned into a sit-in in Islamabad that would be ended only after the announcement of snap elections.
If the government does not agree to an early election, the sit-in could also be moved to Red Zone and eventually the Prime Minister’s House. They said if the government tried to create hurdles, they would use all legal and political means available.
In case of the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and other leaders, the PTI will take out rallies at important intersections across the country. Four-tier security by the workers of the PTI will be provided to Imran as well. In case of more arrests, the PTI will start a ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ (fill prisons movement).
In order to counter the crackdown, the PTI after consultations between the bigwigs has decided to install ‘protest camps’ in key districts of Pakistan on Wednesday.