Police arrested Awami National Party’s (ANP) General Secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Sunday after an FIR was filed against him in the wake of the death of a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) worker. The move sparked a chorus of complaints from different political groups that accused the ruling party in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of high-handedness and political victimisation.
Habibullah, a PTI activist, died outside the ANP campaign office in Pabbi Bazaar where party workers had gathered to celebrate their victory in the local government elections. According to police, members of the winning party were chanting slogans and firing gunshots into the air when Habibullah was struck by a bullet — which proved fatal.
His death inflamed tensions as PTI workers started hurling stones at the ANP office, alleging that the fatal bullet was fired from that party’s camp. Soon the confrontation degenerated into a free for all clash after emotionally charged workers of the two parties exchanged blows. Several ANP workers sustained injuries in the clash.
Later, the father of the deceased PTI worker approached Pabbi police and registered a murder case against Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who, according to him was sitting in his office at the time of the incident and ordered his guard to shoot his son. Police registered a case against Mian Iftikhar under sections 324,320 and 109 of Pakistan Panel Code (PPC) and arrested the ANP leader. He was later presented before a civil judge in Nowshera and was remanded to the police for 24 hours.
Speaking to the media outside the court, Mian Iftikhar said he was lucky to have survived “an attempt on his life”.
“If the military had not come in time to rescue me, things would have been different,” he said, adding that even the police and army could not take him out of his office in the first attempt as the protesters were armed.
“I am being politically victimised. My sympathies are with the family of the deceased. Everyone knows that I forgave the murderers of my own son; so why would I want to kill anyone else’s,” he said.
Mian Iftikhar will appear before the court in Nowshera today (Monday).
Leaders of several political parties condemned PTI over the arrest of Mian Iftikhar. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also criticised the move as he called for political personalities to be treated with respect within the parameters of law.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also expressed concern over the arrest and directed the interior secretary to ask the provincial government to present an immediate report in this context.
Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, the ANP’s provincial president, and the party’s Information Secretary Sardar Hussain Babak condemned Mian Iftikhar’s arrest. They said the PTI government had resorted to political victimisation, adding that the ANP’s history testified to its non-violent credentials.
“Mian Iftikhar has devoted his life to non-violent politics and the registration of an FIR against him and his arrest is a glaring example of the provincial government’s attempts to push its opponents to the wall,” the two ANP leaders said in a statement.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also deplored the arrest of senior ANP general secretary on ‘fake charges’. “This arrest shows the PTI government is bent upon victimising its political opponents,” he said.
He said the nation has witnessed massive rigging in K-P elections and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should take action against the PTI chief Imran Khan and the K-P CM Khattak for presiding over such rigged elections.
PTI rejects claims
PTI chief Imran Khan, however, rejected claims that the provincial government had put any pressure on the police to arrest the ANP leader.
“The FIR was lodged neither on my order nor on the orders of the K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak,” Imran told reporters in Islamabad.
“Police in K-P works as per law, and there is no political intervention,” he said. “Police will investigate the matter independently,” he added.
K-P CM Pervaiz Khattak has sought a detailed report from the inspector general of police.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2015.