Civil unrest: Pakistan puts leadership of its largest party behind bars

The first line of PTI leadership is now behind the bars

SRINAGAR | Updated: 11 May, 2023 3:23 pm IST

SRINAGAR: Pakistan has locked the top leadership of its single-largest party as its crackdown on arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s support base continues unabated.

Widespread violence broke out across Pakistan following the dramatic arrest of Imran Khan, the Islamic country’s cricket legend and leader of its main opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

Pakistan Army and the ruling coalition government has responded to violent protests by arresting top PTI leaders – one by one. Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Falknaz Chitrali, Musrat Jamsheed Cheema, and Malika Bukhari are among the senior PTI leaders which is now behind the bars. Qureshi was apprehended in the early hours of Thursday, while the others were arrested the previous evening.

The sudden arrests are widely seen as illegal and undemocratic even as authorities maintain that they were carried out in “compliance with legal requirements”. More such arrests are on the cards.

On Wednesday, the India hater former minister Fawad Chaudhry was taken into custody by the police after he emerged from the Supreme Court building, where he had sought refuge for over 12 hours in an attempt to evade arrest.

PTI secretary general Asad Umar was also arrested from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) – the venue where Khan was placed under custody by a swarm of paramilitary personnel donning riot gears. Umar was reportedly arrested by the Islamabad police.

Former Punjab governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema was arrested during the early hours of Wednesday morning in a raid conducted by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), Punjab province at his residence.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi was arrested in the early hours of Thursday. Before his custody, Qureshi took to social media in a video message to his supporters, stating, “I want to inform the world that there is a persistent propaganda campaign against PTI, attempting to portray us as violent creators of terrorism. A campaign has been launched to sow discord and mistrust between our supporters and the leadership.”

He further added, “On behalf of my PTI family and my Chairman @ImranKhanPTI, let me make it clear: Nothing can divide us now. The nation should continue to protest peacefully wherever possible. We must not retreat from our struggle for justice and the rule of law!”

In addition, law enforcement agencies across Pakistan have arrested around a thousand PTI supporters, including several women.

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