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PTI to try to break Lahore siege, avoiding arrests

Amid crackdown, party workers to reach Islamabad through GT Road in wee hours

On the call of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to reach Islamabad, the party workers and leaders from Lahore are planning to leave for the federal capital in the wee hours of Wednesday to avoid arrests and crackdown.

The police launched a crackdown a day before the long march, conducting raids at the residences of active party workers and leaders. Raids were conducted all over the province but no key leader was arrested by the police, which shows the move was meant only to spread fear among the workers ahead of the long march.

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The PTI key leaders from Lahore, including Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Hammad Azhar, Senator Waleed Iqbal, Musarat Jamshed Cheema and Sadia Sohail Rana, said that their houses were raided by the police in the wee hours on Tuesday but no arrest was made. Talking to Minute Mirror, PTI’s Senator Waleed Iqbal said that the police broke the main gate of his residence in Lahore’s Gulberg area. He was in Islamabad for the Senate session but his mother, retired Justice Nasira Javid Iqbal and brother Munib Iqbal were there at Lahore residence.

“The police entered my house without any warrant and misbehaved with our staff present there,” he said, adding that when they were told that it was the house of Allama Iqbal and his family, they replied, “We don’t know any Allama Iqbal.” Later in the day, PTI Punjab President Shafqat Mehmood called a press conference at party’s Jail Road office but cancelled it at the eleventh hour due to the fear of arrests.

He rescheduled the presser at Lahore Press Club while also giving a protest call there but only a few party workers reached there. Later, the press conference at Lahore Press Club was also cancelled as a large number of police officials were seen there. After failing to hold any presser, Shafqat Mehmood released a video message for the workers from an undisclosed location.

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“This incompetent and illegal government started arresting our workers in sheer panic and fear,” said Shafqat Mehmood, in his video message. He claimed that police conducted raids at 1,100 places in Punjab while violating the sanctity of the residences of citizens. “They harassed our workers and arrested them,” he said, adding that the houses of PTI lawmakers were also raided by the police.

“Our march is peaceful but they showed panic and fear and blocked the roads,” Shafqat said. He reiterated that “our mission will continue despite all these restrictions, and we’ll reach Islamabad on the call of Imran Khan”. He further added that the caravan will reach Islamabad through GT Road as the motorway is closed. Addressing the workers, he said that they all should be prepared as they will leave from Lahore at 7am for Islamabad.

Shafqat didn’t share the exact point from where the party workers would leave due to the fear of arrests. “I am not sharing the exact point as police can launch a crackdown there,” he said. Later, in another video message, PTI Punjab Information Secretary MPA Musarat Jamshed Cheema said that they all will gather at Batti Chowk (Niazi Chowk) at 9am to leave for Islamabad.

Batti Chowk is the second last exit point of Lahore just near Ravi bridge that has already been closed with containers. Clashes are expected between the police and PTI workers when they reach there. “Don’t gather at your party offices to avoid arrest. Reach Batti Chowk directly at 9am from where we’ll leave towards Islamabad,” she added.

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