ISLAMABAD: The protests which have gripped the country since the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on May 9 – who has now been released on the order of the country’s top court – continued on Friday as demonstrators insist the protests will not die out or fade away unless party chief issues orders to call off the protests.
Like other parts of the country, a large number of protesters gathered in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for the fourth consecutive day to condemn what they said “abduction” of Imran Khan by Pakistan Rangers from Islamabad High Court’s premises.
The hide-and-seek between the police and the PTI workers continued throughout the day despite the arrest of workers and some leaders of the party by Islamabad and Punjab Police personnel.
The highly-charged protesters comprising women, men, children, and elderly told Business Recorder that the protests would not stop regardless of the government’s brutal crackdown, as the sole reason they have taken to the street is that they want protection for their leader and early elections in the country.
The PTI workers and party supporters gathered on Srinagar Highway near sector G-13, where party chief Imran Khan was expected to address them after the IHC hearing. Clashes were reported between the protestors and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) police. The police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the crowds as protestors pelted stones at them.
According to the ICT police, the demonstrators also set a vehicle on fire on Srinagar Highway. Social media users also reported teargas shelling and a heavy police contingent on the main road that passes through the federal capital.
Ahead of the crucial hearing of Imran Khan in IHC, PTI leader Hammad Azhar released a short video on Twitter and urged the party’s supporters to reach Islamabad.
“Everyone should reach Islamabad and safeguard themselves from illegal arrests,” said the PTI leader.
In a statement, PTI leader Shehryar Khan Afridi warned that “if something happens to Imran Khan, we will destroy ourselves but will not let you people live.”
In the same breath, he continued that “We are peaceful but we urge the government not to take decisions which will render the situation out of control.”
Notably, many of the PTI’s senior leaders are in police custody amid an ongoing crackdown, with several other protestors also rounded up for rioting.
PTI leaders Dr Shireen Mazari and Amir Dogar were also arrested by the police and shifted to Adiala jail under 3 MPO.
Mazari was taken into custody from her residence in Islamabad in a pre-dawn raid and was shifted to the concerned police station from where she was taken to Adiala jail.
Her daughter Imaan Mazari confirmed that the police arrested her mother in a late night raid on her house and also switched off the CCTV cameras. The mobile broadband services also remained suspended for the fourth consecutive day.
According to a police spokesman they arrested 493 protesters during four days. He said strict action will be taken against the violators of the law. Section 144 has been imposed in Islamabad and holding protests inside the red zone is not allowed. “All are equal before the law and legal action will be taken against those who violate the law,” he said.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023