A botched protest-cum-rescue operation by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and workers on Saturday ended with the arrest of the party’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa president, Azam Swati. He was charged with obstructing the police in the course of their duty.
The police swung into action after a large number of PTI leaders and workers confronted them outside a local court here when the police were loading the detained workers into police transports after their remand hearing.
Around 100 PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers were being transported to Adiala Jail when PTI workers led by former senator Azam Swati, MNA Arif Alvi and Andaleeb Abbas reached the court and started wrestling with the police.
Alvi, Abbas and other PTI workers also stepped into the police van carrying the detainees and tried to get them free. Some of PTI workers lay down in front of the police vans to stop them from moving. PTI workers including Abbas were also seen deflating the tires of the police transports.
Islamabad Police Inspector General Tahir Alam Khan, who was leading the police escort, warned the protesters on a megaphone to disperse or face arrests.
While talking to reporters, the IG said that the police were exercising considerable restraint despite provocation by the PTI leadership and the workers.
“This assembly is illegal under section 144,” he said.
He said that it was the duty of police to disperse illegal gatherings. He said, however, that he did not order the use of force against the protesters.
He said that the detained persons were involved in the attack on parliament, the PTV building and violations of Section 144.
Khan also told the protesters that “the detained persons are not PTI workers, but rather criminals”.
In the meantime, a heavy contingent of riot police also reached the Kutchery area to help the police get out. Riot police pushed the protesters out of the court premises to make way for the transports.
Swati, who also had a heated exchange with the IG, was arrested for allegedly inciting party workers to prevent the vans from leaving the court’s premises. He was shifted to the Margalla Police Station.
Before his arrest, Swati condemned the arrest of party workers. “It is the height of injustice and we will get revenge by toppling this government,” he said, adding that the PTI will not budge an inch from its demands.
Talking to reporters, Alvi said that the detained workers have not been provided water and food for the last two days.
“The imposition of section 144 to stop political gatherings is illegal. We will violate it as we did in the past,” he said.
He said that the workers were arrested from hotels, guest houses and their houses, rejecting the police claim that they violated section 144 and were involved in the attacks on parliament and PTV the building.
Alvi also met the judge who sent the PTI workers on judicial remand to tell him that the detainees were “innocent”.
“The judge told me to wait and when I came out of the courtroom, I saw the workers being shifted to jail. I asked the workers to prevent the vans from leaving the court,” he said, adding that when he went back to the courtroom, the judge had also left.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2014.
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