Police in Punjab conducted raids late at night on the homes of several PTI leaders ahead of the party’s Azadi March, drawing criticism both from politicians, as well as the public.
PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan, in a tweet on Tuesday, called the “brutal” crackdown the “fascist nature of PML-N when in power”. Peaceful protest was the right of the citizens, he said, adding that the crackdown raised serious questions about the “handlers”.
“Already economy is in a tailspin. I want to warn the crooks and their handlers that these undemocratic and fascist steps will further exacerbate the economic situation and push the country into a state of anarchy,” he cautioned.
The former premier recalled that during his tenure PPP, PML-N, and JUI-F’s anti-government marches were never stopped nor did the PTI government carry out any crackdown on their workers. “This is the difference between democrats and kleptocrats,” he added.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed that the Punjab police raided nearly 1,100 houses last night, while over 400 PTI leaders, both men, and women, had been arrested.
Meanwhile, the party’s general secretary, Asad Umar, said that the “attack” had increased the enthusiasm and passion of PTI workers, adding that the “imported government” could be seen trembling from fear.
PTI Punjab president Shafqat Mahmood also vowed that the crackdown would not “deter” them. “The Azadi March will take place as planned,” he said, stressing that such actions would not “stop patriotic Pakistanis from fighting for what they believe in”.
PTI Senator Faisal Javed requested the courts to take notice of the “illegal crackdown”.
PPP MNA Nafisa Shah said that roughing up families and encroaching on privacy or homes was “hardly a democratic approach to protest.” She suggested that the best way for the government to negotiate was to allow a “localized protest”, adding that the PTI march had now been reduced to a “sit-in” in Islamabad.
In a video message, former Sindh governor Imran Ismail claimed that PTI workers in Karachi were “harassed” and taken into custody as well.
Many from the media fraternity also condemned the overnight raids on PTI leaders.
Columnist Huma Yusuf posted a video of retired Justice Nasira Iqbal, mother of PTI senator Walid Iqbal, who was woken up at 2 am after the Punjab police “roughed up the night staff and left”. Terming the incident unacceptable, she said that “witch-hunts have no place in democracies”.
In videos being circulated on social media, police officers were seen purportedly raiding the houses of Punjab-based PTI leaders including Hammad Azhar, Usman Dar, Fayyazul Hasan Chohan, Malik Waqar Ahmed, Engineer Kashif Kharal, Mazhar Iqbal Gujjar, and others.
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