PTI general-secretary Asad Umar on Tuesday said to the PML-N-led coalition government that its crackdown on the party’s leadership would not help run the country, but would instead bring it to a halt.
“I want to the tell you that what happened last night has just increased the enthusiasm and passion among our workers,” Umar said at a news conference in Peshawar alongside the party’s vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi today, in the aftermath of police raids on the residences of several key PTI figures.
“You can use power to bring Pakistan to a halt, not run it,” Umar said and strongly condemned the “harassment and arrests” of PTI’s leaders in Punjab.
According to former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, “nearly 1,100 houses were raided and over 400 women and men were arrested overnight”. A police officer was martyred during the chaos on Monday night.
پنجاب میں رات گئے گیارہ سو گھروں پر چھاپے مارے گئے، بغیر وارنٹ گھروں میں داخل ہو کر پولیس نے خواتین حتیٰ کہ بچوں سے بدتمیزی کی، لوگوں کو تشدد کا نشانہ بنایا گیا چار سو سے زائد کارکن حراست میں لئے گئے ان میں خواتین بھی شامل ہیں،
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) May 24, 2022
Meanwhile, videos of the police action, that are doing rounds on social media, drew widespread condemnation from politicians, journalists and other quarters.
The PTI leader revealed that the raids were not limited to Lahore, alleging that lawmakers were arrested in Sindh, Islamabad and Rawalpindi as well. “In Punjab, a 75-year-old woman was taken into custody. The police even tried to take our MPA Yasmin Rashid, who is recovering from cancer.”
What was the government trying to do, Umar asked, cautioning that such incidents would just further push the country into chaos.
‘Turn every street into Srinagar Highway’
Meanwhile, Qureshi urged PTI leaders and supporters in Punjab to avoid arrests and “go underground” or move to the houses of their relatives if they had to. “Use public transport or any other means and reach Islamabad.
“And if you find hindrances along the way, turn every road, every street and every corner into Srinagar Highway,” the former foreign minister said, promising that “whatever may come”, the programme for the march would stay the same.
The march, he asserted, was not just restricted to the PTI anymore and had transformed into a national movement.
Hence “Imran Khan will lead the rally from Peshawar tomorrow (May 25) and reach Islamabad,” he vowed. “Even if they put barriers, we will meander our way into the capital.”
Qureshi also clarified that PTI never had the policy that promoted violence or conflict. “All our political activities have always been peaceful. We organised rallies and gatherings which were attended by millions but never was violence or conflict reported in any of them,” he said.
He further pointed out that PTI wasn’t going to Islamabad for a war.
“We are going there to show the government a legal, constitutional and democratic way … because the system of the country has been paralysed. The economy is in a tail-spin and the government is unable to take a decision.”
‘One solution: elections’
Umar and Qureshi stressed that the only solution to the chaos in the country is fresh elections.
“If you really care about the country, make a choice today. Because the people of the country have decided that they won’t accept slavery or any imported government,” the PTI general secretary said.
“We are not asking you to make Imran Khan the prime minister or to bring back PTI,” he continued. “We want you to bring people who can genuinely run the country.”
Meanwhile, Qureshi said that a “level-playing field” should be created where the decision was put in the hands of the public.
“Let the people decide, if they feel we are right, they will vote for us. If they think other parties can run the country better then they will vote them, and we will accept their decision.”
Subsequently, Umar urged the government to take a decision today and announce a date for the elections. “Remember, we will only accept the decision taken by the people, even if that means our defeat. We will accept everything they say. But a decision taken behind closed doors is unacceptable,” he added