Former Pakistan PM Khan’s party kicks off ‘fill up jails’ movement
Islamabad, Feb 22 (EFE).- Hundreds of supporters of former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s party gathered in the eastern city of Lahore, defying an order to prevent mass congregations, and voluntarily offered to be arrested as a part of its “fill up jails” movement on Wednesday.
The first arrests were made by the Lahore police when Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, along with several others, were taken away by the police from a public rally.
In a video message, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that Qureshi and others have been arrested by the police, adding that more than 500 of their party workers have surrendered before the police.
“Tehreek-e-Insaf will end the campaign only by sending this government home,” Chaudhry tweeted while sharing the picture of the arrested leadership sitting in a prison van.
The government of Punjab has imposed section 144 of the constitution, prohibiting the gathering of five or more people, which hundreds of PTI workers and supporters gathered to violate and readily faced arrest in an act of defiance against the authorities.
Television footage showed a prison van carrying PTI leaders with several of its supporters on its rooftop.
Khan had said that the “Jail Bharo Tehreek,” or “court arrest drive,” was aimed at countering the “attack” on the party’s fundamental rights by registering a series of police cases against its leadership and against the economic “meltdown” by the current government of PM Shehbaz Sharif.
Several leaders of Khan’s party have recently been arrested on multiple charges, including sedition.
Those arrested, including a sitting senator, have accused the authorities of inhuman torture in custody.
In a tweet, Khan said the campaign for what he calls “Haqeeqi Azadi,” or “real freedom,” was started for two main reasons.
“One, it is a peaceful, non violent protest against the attack on our constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights,” said the former premier.
He said the party leadership was facing sham police and corruption cases, custodial torture, while attacks on journalists and activists continued.
Khan said the second reason for the drive was to act “against the economic meltdown brought on by cabal of crooks who have money laundered billions in looted wealth.”
According to Khan, the leadership of current government had got amnesty from accountability courts while crushing the common people especially the poor and middle class, under the burden of spiraling inflation and rising unemployment.
Separately, in a video message, the PTI chief urged the people to take to the streets for “real freedom.”
“Actually, this campaign will take you to a free and happy Pakistan. And this will only happen when the state protects your fundamental rights,” he said.
After Lahore, Peshawar will witness the launch of the court arrest drive on Thursday followed by Rawalpindi the day after. The campaign will continue to take place in other cities as well, according to a PTI announcement.
Khan was ousted from power in a vote of no confidence in April last year. He blamed the United States for playing a role to remove him from office. Washington has denied Khan’s allegations.
However, in a recent media interview, Khan, while backtracking from his initial accusations, said that it turned out that it was not the US, but former army chief general Qamar Bajwa who conspired with the then-opposition to oust him from power.
Khan has, since then, demanded early elections which are due in October otherwise. EFE