After the arrest of Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case and the publishing of the purported cipher in a US media outlet, the authorities seem to be taking no chances and have initiated a crackdown against workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) throughout Punjab. The relaunch of the crackdown has come about after the PTI senior vice chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, called on party workers to celebrate Independence Day by bringing out rallies. The crackdown has led many workers to go underground.
However, the Punjab police are claiming that the crackdown has been launched against criminal elements that were involved in the May 9 violence. A senior police officer refuted reports that PTI workers were being arrested in the wake of Independence Day.
Raids were being carried out throughout the province. A list of over 4,000 PTI workers and supporters has been prepared by the authorities to go after, a local news channel reported.
It claimed that a list of 4,082 people had been prepared by the Punjab police for the arrest, following which special teams had been set up that carried out raids on nearly 100 identified places in various districts of Punjab. The authorities are fearing that the Independence Day rallies might turn into political protests and instead of hoisting national flags on the rooftops of houses, the PTI flags would be raised. A complete clampdown on the PTI in the province has been started so that no activist could divert the celebrations for promoting the PTI narrative on the pretext of Independence Day rallies. Celebrating Independence Day is every patriotic citizen’s right. All political parties bring out rallies that are participated by a large number of people.
To prevent a party from taking part in such an activity is against basic norms.
First and foremost, PTI is not a banned party. It was once a ruling party and therefore it has the right to celebrate Independece Day in a peaceful manner, with speakers highlighting the significance of the day. Secondly, the administration can go against those elements that use the occasion for disrupting peace. It can be anybody and from any party. We have seen proscribed organisations bringing out rallies without any restriction. So why single out one party?
Yes, those who were involved in the May 9 violence need to be acted against but to make it a pretext to prevent a party from organising Aug 14 rallies would be discriminatory. The provincial government should therefore not create a hindrance and allow activities associated with the occasion without any discrimination. But, miscreants should not be spared if caught spreading chaos.