LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Fearing that the notorious intelligence agencies may torture senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf politicians at undisclosed locations, ousted premier Imran Khan‘s party on Thursday filed a petition in a court seeking the release of the leaders who offered their arrests under the mass court arrest movement a day earlier.
The interim Punjab government on Thursday confirmed that police had arrested 81 PTI activists, including former federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Hammad Azhar, Senators Azam Swati and Waleed Iqbal (grandson of poet of Allama Iqbal) and former Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema. Khan’s party, however, insists that around 250 party workers have been detained by police in Lahore.
Initially, all the arrested PTI supporters were shifted to Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore but later its leaders were shifted to an ‘undisclosed location’.
Since neither the government nor the Punjab police confirmed the location of the detained leaders, the party and the families of the arrested leaders on Thursday filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking their “safe recovery/release.”
Zain Qureshi, son of former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said neither his father nor other leaders were presented before any court of law on Thursday nor the Punjab government and police are disclosing which jail they have been taken to.
The petitioners said the lives of PTI leaders are at stake at the hands of the government and police.
“If the detainees are not released from the illegal and unlawful detention, they may suffer an irreparable loss and injury,” they said and added that the arrested PTI leaders may be booked in false and frivolous cases in order to cause them maximum harm.
The PTI leadership is wary of the treatment meted out to the detained leaders.
Earlier, Senator Azam Swati had alleged that some senior ISI officers had inflicted severe torture on him while he was in police custody.
The PTI is fearing a similar situation in the case of these arrested senior leaders.
A Punjab police officer said that Qureshi has been shifted to Attock Jail while the other senior leaders are kept in different jails in Punjab.
Khan’s party on Wednesday began a mass court arrest movement from Lahore over what it called the violation of fundamental rights, abuse of the Constitution and the economic meltdown.
According to the party, every day a few hundred PTI workers and leaders will present themselves for arrest from different cities.
On Thursday, party workers and leaders presented themselves for arrest in Peshawar. “Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders, workers and people left for (Peshawar) Central Jail in large numbers,” the party said.
The mass court arrest movement will continue till the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not announced, a party leader said.
The PTI dissolved its governments in Punjab and Kyber-Pakhtaunkhawa provinces over a month ago. Under the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days after the dissolution of an assembly.
The PML-N-led nine-party government has said that holding separate elections for the provincial and national assemblies is not possible because of the economic crisis and the law and order situation.
Khan, who was ousted as prime minister in April last year after a no-confidence motion was passed in the National Assembly, is seeking fresh general elections in Pakistan.
Khan has said that he has started the “Jail Bharo Tehreek” (court arrest movement) for Haqeeqi Azadi for two main reasons. “One, it is a peaceful, non-violent protest against the attack on our constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights. We are facing sham FIRs & National Accountability Bureau cases, custodial torture, attacks on journalists & social.”
He said the drive was against the economic meltdown “brought on by a cabal of crooks who have money laundered billions in looted wealth & gotten the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) (deal) for themselves while crushing the people, especially the poor and middle class, under the burden of spiralling inflation and rising unemployment.”
Khan urged the people to take to the streets to get “true freedom”.