Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Punjab Police late Monday raided the houses of several PTI leaders, including former energy minister Hammad Azhar, Usman Dar, and Babar Awan, while a police constable was also shot dead during a raid in Lahore.
The development comes hours after PTI's Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, in a press conference, warned the government against using force to stop the "Azadi March", set to begin on May 25.
The former information minister told the government that it could arrest PTI leaders and workers if it wanted to, but it would not be in its favour.
A senior Punjab police officer told Geo.tv, on condition of anonymity, that 121 PTI workers have so far been arrested in Lahore. During a raid on one of the PTI leader's house in Lahore's Model Town, police constable Kamal Ahmed was shot in the chest and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
The suspect fired the bullet from the rooftop of a house, police said. "...we are still investigating but we will not spare those involved [in the crime]," DIG Operations Lahore Captain (Retd) Muhammad Sohail Chaudhry said.
Meanwhile, despite Fawad's warning of using force against the PTI ahead of the long march, police raided the houses of PTI leaders across Punjab and Islamabad.
Police raided Hammad Azhar's house in Lahore, however, he was not present at his residence.
Lahore Police also raided the residence of PTI's former information secretary, Farrukh Javed, but he escaped via his home's back door, according to Geo News.
In Lahore's Jauhar Town, PTI MPA Sadia Sohail said her house had also been raided. "Police violated the sanctity of the four walls of the house," she claimed.
The house of another PTI leader in Lahore, Mehr Naeemullah Taj, was also raided. He alleged that police misbehaved with his family members and manhandled his employees.
Police raided the residences of PTI leaders Malik Ishtiaq and Yasir Gillani, but since they were also not present in their houses, no arrests could be made.
In Sialkot, the house of former special assistant to the prime minister on information Firdous Ashiq Awan, ex-provincial minister Chaudhry Ikhlaq, and PTI leader Tahir Hundli's houses were raided.
Sialkot Police — with a heavy contingent — also raided the residence of Usman Dar. However, he was not present at his home, officials said.
PTI's Sahiwal district president, Rana Aftab, and another PTI leader Kanwar Imran also claimed that their houses were raided.
Sheikhupura Police raided the house of Mian Zafar, but could not arrest him as he was not present there.
PTI leader Rana Sajid from Kamoke also said that his house was raided, but he wasn't present there either. "Police detained two of my employees, but later released them."
Meanwhile, former federal minister Ali Zaidi's spokesperson said that the residence of PTI's Sindh MPA Shehzad Qureshi in Karachi's Defence Housing Authority's Phase 8 was also raided. However, Qureshi wasn't home at the time of the raid.
The residences of Sindh MPA Shahnawaz Jadoon and MNA Saifur Rehman in Karachi were also raided.
Talking to the media, Jadoon's brother Abdur Rehman said that the police detained him as Jadoon wasn't at home when their house was raided, and released him after some questioning.
However, MNA Rehman was arrested during the raid at his residence in Sohrab Goth area.
Moreover, PTI's Youth Wing leader Hafiz Tanveer Ansari's house was raided in Lahore. Sources within the party said that Ansari wasn't home when the police raided therefore they returned empty-handed.
In response, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said 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.
Khan warned the "crooks and their handlers" that these undemocratic and "fascist" steps would further exacerbate the economic situation and push the country into a state of anarchy.
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.
Talking to the media after the raid at his home, Hammad Azhar said police had raided his home without any warrant and violated the sanctity of the "four walls of the house".
“It was a coward act of the coward government, however, the people of Lahore will respond to this action of the incumbent government," he said.
The former minister, saying that a peaceful protest was their democratic and constitutional right, noted that he was still a member of the National Assembly.
“I am an ex-federal minister and still a member of Parliament as my resignation has not been accepted. If this happened to me, imagine what would they do to common people,” he added.
Azhar went on to say that “we are not going to run away and will fight".
Former education minister and senior PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood strongly condemned the raids and arrests of party members.
“Fascist government showing its true colours. This will not stop patriotic Pakistanis from fighting for what they believe in. Shameful conduct of imported Govt and corrupt PM,” he tweeted.
Taking to Twitter, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed that his residence was under surveillance and a raid was being planned, therefore, he had left home.
“Now I will reach Jehlum and the ‘Azadi March’ will be successful; these oppressors will be brought to justice,” he said.
PTI member Walid Iqbal's residence in Lahore was also raided at 2 in the morning. Taking to Twitter, Iqbal posted two videos to explain how the "terror squad" entered the house where his mother lives.
In the video, a man showed the gate of the raided house which was "damaged" by the police party.
"Is this Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia? Police is meant to protect, not terrorise. In the wee hours today, a squad of eight came after me at Lahore while I was in Islamabad. One climbed over the gate, others used the squad car to break in. Imported government’s end is near," he wrote.
In the second video, Iqbal's mother, Retd Justice Nasira Iqbal said that eight cops arrived in a van at 2am, leaped over her gate and broke it open.
She said that the cops entered the premises of her house to check if Walid is home, but to their disappointment, he doesn't live here.
Nasira said that police breaking into someone's house without permission or any reason happens in a society where there is "Daaku Raj" (criminal regime).