LAHORE: The Punjab government has launched an extensive crackdown on PTI activists and leaders, arresting at least 247 of them till the filing of this report on Tuesday night.
Most PTI leaders have gone into hiding. The arrests aim to thwart the party’s long march. The police raided the residences of PTI leaders Hammad Azhar, Mian Hamid Mehmood, Ali Naveed Bhatti, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, MPA Malik Nadeem Abbas Bara, Mian Aslam Iqbal, MPA Sadia Sohail, Ejaz Chaudhry and others.
Former provincial minister and PTI senior leader Mehmoodur Rasheed was detained by the police on Tuesday night. Earlier on Tuesday he claimed that during the police search operation, he hid himself in a storeroom for almost 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, PTI MPA Sadia Sohail claimed that the raiding police party did not show the raid/arrest warrant, and during the search, the police kept her official vehicle along with them.
A large contingent of police raided the house of PTI leader and former Data Darbar union council chairman Mian Hamid Mahmood. However, he escaped. Later, he said the police had violated the sanctity of home as the women were insulted. According to police sources, no prominent leader had been arrested. Besides, the Kasur police raided the house of MNA ticket holder Sardar Rashid Tufail. However, he was not at home. The house of PTI leader Saeed Ahmed Khan was also raided in Sherkot.
Containers were also impounded for roadblocks. Additional police personnel have been dispatched to Rawalpindi to stop the march. Tear gas, prison vans and other equipment have also been provided to the police. According to police sources, a list of 350 PTI members has been prepared and provided by the CCPO's office to police stations concerned while all divisional SPs will personally monitor the crackdown.
The traffic between Lahore and Rawalpindi was also suspended to stop the long march. Passengers faced severe problems due to the closure of major highways. The motorway was also completely closed.
Meanwhile, barricades were set up at several points on the GT Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway to stop the march. All land routes between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have been blocked with barricades by putting huge piles of mud, containers, ballast, cement blocks and iron fences at many places.
The Ravi Bridge in Lahore was also blocked. The Metro bus service was suspended in Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad. The Faizabad Interchange will be sealed.
Heavy contingents of stick-wielding police and Rangers have also been deputed on the GT Road and Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway. People of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and elsewhere in the country, who wanted to go to KP, faced great hardships due to the blockade of roads in the two provinces. However, the PTI workers have acquired heavy machinery and cranes to remove the containers, cement blocks and piles of mud from the roads.
Meanwhile, Section 144 has been imposed in Punjab. According to a notification, assemblies, gatherings, processions, sit-ins, demonstrations and jalsas, etc, could be a soft target of terrorists, so Section 144 was imposed in view of the recent terrorist incidents across Pakistan.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, on the recommendations of law enforcement agencies, has approved the suspension of mobile phone service at 20 places in Lahore and 350 places in Punjab. After the approval of the chief minister, the advice will be sent to the Punjab Home Department and the Ministry of Interior for instructions to the PTA for implementation.
Later, talking to the media after the funeral prayers of martyred cop Kamal Ahmed at Police Lines, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz said that Imran Niazi would not be allowed to play with the Constitution. The youngest son and brother of the martyred constable were also with him. Earlier, he addressed a meeting at the Chief Minister's Office in which the law and order situation in the province was reviewed.
A PPP delegation led by Hassan Murtaza also met Hamza Shehbaz and condemned the undemocratic tactics of the PTI. Meanwhile, in his tweet, Hamza said the matter had now gone beyond abuses to bullets. “If the path of those who play with the Constitution and the law is still not blocked, then this sedition will spread throughout the country. Let me make it clear that these anti-state activities will be stopped with iron fists,” he said.
While there was no official announcement by public and private institutions, many private schools and autonomous institutions announced their closure today. The Divisional Public School (DPS), an autonomous institute operating under the administrative control of the Lahore commissioner, sent a message to parents of students to announce its closure. A number of universities have also announced online classes and cancelled important administrative activities.
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