Fearing success of PTI’s “Azadi March,” the PML-N led government has started crackdown on the leaders and workers of former ruling party and arrested 73 workers.

The Punjab Police late Monday night raided the houses of several PTI leaders, including former energy minister Hammad Azhar, Usman Dar, Babar Awan, Firdaus Ashiq Awan and Sadia Sohail, while a constable was shot dead during a raid in Lahore.

Meanwhile, Sindh police raided the houses of PTI MNA Saif-ur-Rehman and Shahzad Qureshi last night but could not arrest them as they were not in their residences.

The development comes hours after PTI’s Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, in a press conference, warned the government against using force to stop the “Azadi March”, set to begin on May 25.

The former information minister told the government that it could arrest PTI leaders and workers if it wanted to, but it would not be in its favour. Despite warning, police raided the houses of PTI leaders across Punjab, Islamabad and Karachi.

Meanwhile, it is learnt 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 was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police claimed that bullet was fired from the rooftop of a house. “…we are still investigating but we will not spare those involved [in the crime],” DIG Operations Lahore Captain (Retd) Sohail Chaudhry said.

LEADERS HOUSES RAIDED: Police raided Hammad Azhar’s house in Lahore, but he was not present at his residence. However, former minister Dr Yasmin Rashid and other leaders were present in the house.

Dr Yasim Rashid staged sit-in against police raid. However, police did not arrest any leader from the house of Hammad.

It is reported that police also raided the residence of PTI’s former information secretary Farrukh Javed but he escaped from his home’s back door.

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 added.

The house of PTI leader Mehr Naeemullah Taj was also raided in Lahore. 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 in their houses, no arrests could be 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.”

IMRAN CRITICISES POLICE ACTION: 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.

Imran 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.

HAMMAD AZHAR: 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 said 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 Jhelum and the ‘Azadi March’ will be successful; these oppressors will be brought to justice,” he said.

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