Pakistan: Khan’s party alleges hundreds arrested ahead of march

Imran Khan’s PTI party says more than 400 supporters arrested in bid to thwart a major sit-in planned by the former leader in Islamabad.

Pakistan politics
Authorities placed shipping containers over a bridge on the Ravi river near Lahore in an attempt to foil a planned protest by Khan's supporters [K M Chaudary/AP]

Pakistani police have arrested hundreds of supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party ahead of a major march planned by the defiant politician, say members of the party.

The crackdown against Khan’s PTI is being seen as an attempt by the authorities to thwart the sit-in planned in capital Islamabad starting on Wednesday and aimed at toppling the new government.

“[The police] raided the houses of over 1,100 party workers and leaders after midnight,” Fawad Chaudhry, Khan’s close aide and former information minister, told dpa news agency on Tuesday.

More than 400 workers and leaders have been arrested, he said, adding that the crackdown was continuing and that the party’s senior leadership was “safe”.

Authorities confirmed the raids but refused to share details about any arrests.

Meanwhile, Pakistani social media was flooded with videos showing policemen allegedly entering PTI workers’ homes and harassing their family members.

A policeman was killed in the eastern city of Lahore during one such raid at the residence of a PTI leader.

The incident prompted the Punjab government to impose a colonial-era law that bans the assembly of four or more people.

Interior minister Rana Sanaullah accused Khan of seeking to create a “civil war-like situation” and said the policeman’s killing proved the PTI’s protest was not “peaceful”.

Local media reports cited the minister as saying the government will stop Khan’s march to Islamabad.

The Islamabad High Court has asked the government to make sure no one is harassed needlessly.

Special security arrangements have been made in the capital where all roads leading to parliament have been blocked with shipping containers, barbed wire and nearly 22,000 security personnel deployed.

The developments came two days after Khan asked his supporters to gather in Islamabad and protest until the parliament is dissolved and fresh elections announced.

Khan, who was removed with a no-confidence vote in April, says the United States was behind his removal from office. The Pakistani military, the White House and the State Department have denied the allegation.

On Tuesday, Khan tweeted that his supporters had a right to protest peacefully.

“The brutal crackdown on PTI (leaders) & workers in Punjab & Islamabad has once again shown us what we are familiar with – the fascist nature of PMLN when in power,” he said, referring to the party of current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

On Saturday, senior PTI leader and former minister Shireen Mazari was arrested near her house in the capital over a decades-old land dispute. She was briefly detained before a court ordered her release.

Source: News Agencies