An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Friday granted interim bails to top leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab chapter in a case related to violation of Section 144 and attacks on police officials on May 25 – the day the party launched its ‘Azadi March’ towards Islamabad.
Judge Abher Gul Khan passed the order after PTI leaders appeared before the court and filed an application to seek interim bail.
Shahdara and Gulberg area police had made a plea that the PTI leaders were behind the violation of Section 144 and attacks on police personnel. The police said their arrest was required so that the police could investigate the matter. The investigation officer asked the court to issue their arrest warrants.
At this, the court had issued arrest warrants of PTI leaders, including Punjab President Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Shafqat Mehmood, Hammad Azhar, Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Mian Akram Usman, Zubair Khan Niazi, Imtiaz Mehmood Sheikh, Malik Nadeem Abbas, Murad Raas, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Yasir Gilani, Andleeb Abbas, and Ijaz Chaudhry.
However, the PTI leaders appeared before the court and filed their petitions through their counsels Advocate Burhan Muazzam Malik and Advocate Rana Mudassir Umar, and prayed the court that they were not terrorists and the cases registered against them were politically motivated.
The lawyers said that Gulberg police booked 14 PTI leaders and workers, while Shahdara police registered an FIR against 13 people associated with the party.
“We are here in the court since 10:00am and all those nominated in the cases have marked their attendance,” said a lawyer, pleading that they wanted bails in the two cases registered under terrorism charges.
The petitioners said they had nothing to do with the damage to properties and were not involved in attacking law enforcement agencies on the day of Azadi March. Holding protests and long marches was their legal right, they said.
They asked the court to set them free for being innocent.
After hearing initial arguments, the judge allowed interim bail to 13 PTI leaders against surety bonds to the tune of Rs100,000 each. The court also restrained the police from arresting them until June 17.
The Punjab Police had registered a total of 42 criminal cases against PTI senior leaders and workers over charges of vandalism on May 25.
The PTI lost three workers and hundreds of others got injured on the day of the long march.
Besides this, three police personnel lost their lives, 34 got injured in Lahore and over 50 police personnel were hurt in Attock, Sargodha, Mianwali and other cities.
The police registered cases in various districts, including Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Mianwali, Jhelum, Chakwal and Attock.
Talking to reporters, PTI Punjab President Dr. Yasmin Rashid strongly condemned the coalition government.
“Police refused to lodge FIR on our complaints,” she said, adding that the law enforcers had received orders from the “top”.
Hammad Azhar also criticised Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and warned him that he should go to the extent he could bear later.
“We are not terrorists but we are here in front of the anti-terrorism court,” he said, pointing out that the people who were present there had launched a peaceful protest on May 25.
“Maryam Nawaz and Sanaullah are behind these cases of terrorism,” said Azhar, adding that the imported government was lodging FIRs against them just for taking out peaceful protests, which was their legal and constitutional right.
He also said that Maryam and Sanaullah wanted to make this a “police fascist state” to suppress the voices against them so that their rule could remain intact.
He said the matter regarding the deaths of Maqsood ‘Chaprasi’ and Dr. Rizwan was yet to be investigated to ascertain whether they were killed or they died naturally.
PTI activists and police had clashed on May 25 at Lahore’s Liberty Roundabout and a similar situation was witnessed in Shahdara police precinct, as workers and supporters crossed Ravi Bridge.