Diehard Nawaz Leaguer Rana Sanaullah is under arrest, although not over corruption — the most common allegation against opposition members these days. Interestingly, the charge that has landed the president of the PML-N Punjab in the custody of law enforcers concerns possession of drugs — something he is never heard of having been associated with. The opposition — both the PML-N and the PPP — calls Sanaullah’s arrest a part of the ‘ongoing political victimisation campaign of the government’. Senior leaders of the two parties allege when the government failed to find even a shred of corruption evidence against him, it brought ‘this ridiculous charge’ just to harass a ‘loyalist’ into submission.
The government, on the other hand, claims that ‘authentic information’ led to the high-profile arrest. PM’s Special Assistant Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, says that Sanaullah had been detained by the Anti-Narcotics Force for carrying drugs worth Rs150 million to Rs200 million in his vehicle. However, what raises questions over the authenticity of the charge is whether Sanaullah is naïve enough to be travelling with such a huge amount of drugs in an atmosphere hostile to the opposition. And with the government supposed to stay impartial, it must have avoided speaking in the defence of the arrest on behalf of an independent organisation like the ANF.
The arrest, meanwhile, comes at a time when the opposition parties, having gathered on a single platform, are gearing up for an anti-government movement. Just days back, a multi-party conference in Islamabad had announced observing July 25 — the day the 2018 general elections were held — as black day. One of the decisions the opposition parties had reached is about voting out the Senate chairman. Sanaullah’s arrest may, therefore, be a part of a pre-emptive strategy by the government. For Sanallah, the arrest was longtime coming and he had time and again said that he was prepared for it. Well, also prepared is Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as he says that he will not even apply for any pre-arrest bail. There are other opposition leaders who are said to be braced for a similar situation. All that is enough to indicate that tense and uncertain times are not going to go from our politics any time soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2019.
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