A number of PTI workers and leaders were arrested in the wee hours of Tuesday as Punjab police raided the houses of several party leaders, while a policeman was also gunned down during a “crackdown” in Lahore.
The development occurs one day after the former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan announced the long-awaited date of the “Azadi March”, due to start on 25 May.
On Sunday, during a press conference, Khan demanded a date for elections as well as the dissolution of the assemblies. He also sent a message to the country’s military and asked it to abide by its promise of “neutrality.”
In the early hours of Tuesday, police began cracking down on PTI workers and leaders. Party sources have said that about 73 workers have been arrested up to now.
While raiding the home of the PTI leader in the Model Town area of Lahore, Police constable Kamal Ahmed was shot in the chest and shifted to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
The suspect fired the bullet from the roof of a house, police reported. “… we continue to investigate, but we will not spare those involved [in the crime]”, Operations DIG Lahore Captain (Retd) Muhammad Sohail Chaudhry said.
Raids in Punjab and Islamabad
The police searched Hamad Azhar’s house in Lahore, but he was not present at his residence.
Lahore Police also raided the residence of PTI’s former information secretary, Farrukh Javed, but he ran away through his home’s back door.
In the Jauhar Town of Lahore, PTI MPA Sadia Sohail said his house had also been searched. “The police breached the sanctity of the four walls of the house,” she said.
Another PTI leader’s house in Lahore, Mehr Naeemullah Taj, has also been searched. He alleged that the police mishandled his family members and mistreated his employees.
In Sialkot, the house of former PM Special Assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan, former provincial minister Chaudhry Ikhlaq, and PTI leader Tahir Hundli were searched.
The Sialkot police, with a heavy contingent, also raided Usman Dar‘s house. However, he was not present at his home.
The president of the Sahiwal district of the PTI, Rana Aftab, and another PTI leader, Kanwar Imran, also said their homes had been searched.
Sheikhupura police raided Mian Zafar’s house but were unable to stop him as he was not there.
Imran condemns police action
In response, PTI chairman Imran Khan stated that a peaceful protest was the right of all citizens.
“The brutal crackdown on PTI leaders and workers in Punjab and Islamabad has once again shown us what we are familiar with – the fascist nature of PMLN when in power,” he said.
“The present crackdown also raises serious questions about the handlers […] already economy is in a tailspin,” the PTI chairman said.
The former prime minister also claimed that PPP, PML-N, and JUI-F’s marches against his government “were never stopped nor did they carry out any crackdown on their workers”.
“This is the difference between democrats and kleptocrats,” said the PTI chief.