Imran Khan condemns 'brutal crackdown'; Hammad Azhar, Babar Awan's houses raided; dozens arrested
Multiple PTI workers and leaders were arrested late Monday night as Punjab Police raided the houses of several party leaders, while a police constable was also shot dead during a "crackdown" in Lahore.
The development comes a day after ex-prime minister and PTI's chairman Imran Khan announced party's much-anticipated "Azadi March" date which is scheduled to begin on May 25.
On Sunday during the presser, Khan demanded a date for a fresh election as well as the dissolution of assemblies. He also sent a message to the country's military and asked it to adhere to its promise of "neutrality."
In the wee hours of Tuesday, police launched crackdown against PTI workers and leaders. Party sources have said that around 73 workers have been arrested so far.
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 at their house, no arrests were 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."
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.