LAHORE: As the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ‘Azadi March’ looms, the Punjab Police launched a vigorous crackdown and made a series of arrests of key activists and leaders of the party.
Apart from the crackdown, the police have blocked all entry and exit points of the provincial metropolis, leaving the city virtually cut off from rest of the country. On the other hand, a policeman was also shot dead during a raid yesternight.
ARRESTS IN PUNJAB
Last night, Punjab police raided various places in Lahore to arrest PTI leaders and workers whereas former provincial law minister Raja Basharat said in his video statement against police raids that his house was raided at night and employees were harassed.
Basharat said that raiding the house late in the night was “illegal and unethical” and these tactics could not affect zeal of the PTI leaders and workers for ‘real freedom march’.
According to PTI sources, police also raided the house of PTI youth leader Hafiz Tanveer in Lahore. However, Hafiz was not present in the house at the time.
Police also raided the house of former provincial minister Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed but he was not present. The police had left after a thorough search of the house.
On the other hand, Rasheed while talking to media said that it was a final meeting at the house of Hammad Azhar for departure from Lahore with reference to ‘Azadi March’ and during the meeting, the someone shouted that the police had arrived, so he had to hide in the storeroom for half an hour.
When police raided Hammad’s residence at that time other leaders including former health minister Yasmeen Rashid were also present in his house. Yasim Rashid protested on road along with party workers and staged a sit-in in the middle of the road.
Rashid’s video of the protest went viral on social media and Twitteratis criticize the government for the victimisation of the opposition leaders.
Meanwhile, Member Punjab Assembly Sadia Sohail said that 15 policemen raided her house and insulted women, adding that the police did not show any warrant. The police searched the house and, on their way they also took her official vehicle.
The house of Tariq Mahmoodul Hassan, special assistant to the former prime minister and leader of PTI, was also raided but he was not present at the house.
Police raided the house of PTI founder member Malik Ishtiaq in Lahore but failed to arrest him.
PTI leader Musarat Jamshed Cheema condemned arrest of MPA Rashida Khanum and said that the police dragged Rashida Khanum into the car. According to Cheema, the police showed disrespect to the elderly woman.
Moreover, police raided the house of PTI leader Yasir Gilani and his family alleged that the policemen tried to break maingate of the house and harassed the children and women in the house.
The house of PTI leader Mehr Naeemullah Taj was also raided in Chungi Amar Sidhu. Later, Mr Taj alleged that the police had insulted the family members and beaten the employees.
Police also reached the house of Farrukh Javed, former PTI information secretary, but Farrukh ran out of the house through back door.
Former provincial minister Mian Aslam Iqbal’s house was raided by police and his brother Afzal Iqbal was taken into custody whereas Iqbal alleged that police also tortured his brother.
The family of Malik Mohammad Zaheer, a local PTI leader, said that Zaheer was arrested during the raid. PTI activists inlcduing Matib and Khaliq were also arrested from Upper Mall, while police raided the house of MPA Malik Nadeem Abbas Bara.
Well maintained sources in Punjab police informed this scribe that the targeted list of PTI workers including Lahore included 2,076 workers and a total of 1,260 PTI workers from across the province, including Lahore, were arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order [MPO] Section 16 and 61 workers and leaders were arrested within 16 hours from Lahore only.
They also informed that 48 workers from Sheikhupura, 20 from Kasur, 20 from Nankana Sahib, 65 from Sahiwal, 12 from Okara, 16 from Pakpattan, 64 from Faisalabad, 31 from Jhang, 23 from Toba Tek Singh and 19 workers were arrested from Chiniot.
Similarly, 18 workers from Gujranwala, 10 from Sialkot, 20 from Narowal, 8 from Gujarat, 31 from Mandi Bahauddin, 2 from Hafizabad, 66 from Rawalpindi division, 197 from Sargodha division, 32 from Bahawalpur division, 183 from DG Khan division and 314 workers from Multan division were arrested.
Sources further revealed that anti-riot equipment has been distributed in 35 police stations of Lahore and anti-riot force personnel have also been attached to the police stations.
However, the force was dispatched with tear gas and anti-riot gear. Similarly, protective shields, helmets and sticks were also distributed to Lahore police personnel.
They added that police officials were given strict instructions not to allow the protesters to come together anywhere in the city. Police have issued high alert in Lalak Jan Chowk, Liberty Chowk, Shahdara and other areas and police personnel in plainclothes have also been deployed on roads. Meanwhile, ten prisoners vehicles were also deployed on roads of the city.
Moreover, the protesters would be shifted to jail immediately after the arrests and arrest warrants were issued for one month each whereas senior inspectors of Lahore police and capable SHOs have also been given the task of arresting main leadership of teh PTI.
POLICE CONSTABLE SHOT DEAD
A man opened fire on policeman from the rooftop last night when police raided a house in Model Town to arrest PTI workers. However, the bullet struck Constable Kamal Ahmed in the chest and he died on the spot.
DIG Lahore Police Chaudhry Sohail while talking to media said that during the police raid, the PTI workers violated the law and Constable Kamal was fired upon from the rooftop of a house.
According to him, the police have arrested owner of the house and his son on the charge of firing and recovered weapon from them.
The FIR lodged on the police complaint said that the police raided a house on the issue of Tenancy Act. During the operation, the accused named Sajid fired abullet from the rooftop of the house which hit the constable.
Meanwhile, PML-Q leader and Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on the martyrdom of a Punjab police official said that he was a martyr of what? Did the police go to arrest the robber?
Punjab Police reacted strongly to the statement of Elahi regarding the martyred constable and spokesperson of Punjab Police while posting a video clip of Elahi’s statement said that police personnel make sacrifices day and night in the performance of their duties.
However, former prime minister Imran Khan, while addressing a press conference in Peshawar on Tuesday, expressed regret over the death but termed it as a self-defense incident.
“If someone’s house is forcibly raided at night, then there is a danger of such incidents occurring,” Khan said.
POLICE PATROLLING AND CLOSUR OF ENTRANCE AND EXITS
In view of the long march of PTI, Punjab Police continued patrolling in different areas of the city, major highways, bazaars and streets. A large contingent of Lahore police was also deployed outside the Lahore Press Club where the PTI leadership was to hold a press conference. However, barricades were set up at various places along the Mall Road and vehicles were searched at many places.
The government sealed off the city’s exit on the Ravi River bridge to block the Long March participants. The road to Ravi Bridge was closed with heavy containers while the old Ravi Bridge was already closed for heavy traffic. Similarly, Saggian Bridge was also closed with tractor trolleys while the road leading to the motorway from Babu Sabu Interchange was also closed whereas, the roads leading to the motorway from Ring Road were partially open.
However, motorway sources informed that the M3 and M4 motorways in Faisalabad were closed while the traffic on the motorway from Lahore to Islamabad was also closed.
The sources further said that containers have been placed at all the interchanges of the motorway and police have been deployed.
Jaranwala and Samundari Interchange on Motorway M3 have been closed while Aminpur, Sahiyanwala and Deputywala Interchange on Motorway M4 have also been closed.
Similarly, M4 motorway from Multan to Lahore has been closed from Abdul Hakim Interchange and containers have been placed on Chenab river bridge in Gujarat.
Containers have been set up at Sadhoki on GT Road in Gujranwala. In Sargodha, containers were set up at Salim Interchange to stop PTI workers, however, food trucks and citizens traveling from abroad were allowed to enter the motorway.
However, Islamabad Kohat Road has been closed with containers at Khushal Garh and Mankor check post.
Lahore to Islamabad public transport suspended
On the other hand, public transport from Lahore to Islamabad was also partially closed due to the long march.
According to a survey conducted by Pakistan Today, passenger buses and wagons were stopped at most bus stands in the provincial capital.
Munir Mian, a transporter at Lahore’s General Bus Stand, informed that in fact many passenger buses were stopped in Tuesday morning by the Punjab Transport Department on suspicion of booking long march. Moreover, a large number of passengers were observed near Thokar Niaz Baig bus stand and Niazi bus stand due to transport blockade.
SECTION 144 IMPOSED IN PUNJAB
Meanwhile, section 144 was also imposed by the Punjab government in the province to stop the long march. Addressing a press conference here in Lahore, PML-N leader Ata Tarar said that the Punjab government had decided to implement section 144 in consultation with the allies which would be implemented immediately.
Tarar also criticized former Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying “He wants chaos in the country and wants to bring down the bodies. He is hiding in Peshawar. If he has the courage, come to Lahore and lead the march,” he said.
Meanwhile, the matriculation papers scheduled for tomorrow [Wednesday] in Lahore and Rawalpindi were canceled due to long march.
According to the spokesperson of Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BIES) Lahore, the exam of Pakistan studies matriculation has been canceled and the reissue date will be announced later whereas the Class IX examination is scheduled to start on May 26.
On the other hand, the Pak-studies paper which was held in Rawalpindi yesterday [Wednesday] has also been canceled.
According to Higher Education Punjab, the next date of canceled papers will be announced by the relevant board.
The Punjab University Examinations Department has also postponed all the examinations scheduled for May 25. A spokesman for the Punjab University said that the new date for the May 25 exams would be announced later.
CLOSURE OF CELLULAR PHONE SERVICE
Sources in the Punjab Home Department informed that mobile phone service will be shut down at 350 places in Punjab keeping in view the long march. However, in this regard, the Chief Minister Punjab has also approved the closure of mobile phone service in suggested points.