Police clash with PTI workers in Lahore, detain 12 members

Heavy contingents of police deployed in both cities as containers are placed to shut down roads, highways

Police in Lahore and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) clashed on Wednesday as the latter managed to push their way through the containers deployed at Batti Chowk by the government to stop the protesters from reaching Islamabad.

Law enforcers resorted to tear gas after PTI supporters tried to remove the containers placed on the routes exiting Lahore. PTI leaders Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, and Shafqat Mehmood were leading the workers. The party supporters, resultantly, hurled stones at the police.
At least 12 workers of the PTI were taken into custody by the police after the clashes. Former Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid was also stopped briefly by local law enforcement, with the party claiming that the police tried to “snatch her car keys”. A video of the incident shared on social media showed a purported PTI supporter resisting the arrest of the former minister.

Rashid in a statement, also said the windshield of her vehicle was broken by police. She said that she faced difficulty in leaving the area, but is now on her way to Islamabad.

“This government has lost its senses. I am an 80-year-old woman. Why are they threatened of me? How is stopping a peaceful protest democratic?”

Rashid added that despite everything, the enthusiasm of the workers was better than ever.
‘Weapons recovered from PTI office bearers’

In a tweet, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz alleged that the Punjab police had recovered weapons from the vehicles of PTI Lahore office-bearers Zubair Niazi and Bajash Niazi.

She shared the pictures of the cache recovered and said, “This is the ugly face of the so-called long march. These are the intentions.”

According to the firebrand PML-N leader, the police have registered a case against the PTI members.
Traffic jams

Commuters in the twin cities and the areas surrounding Islamabad faced hardship and traffic congestion as the incumbent government blocked multiple roads with containers and other barricades in an attempt to curtail the advance of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s long march on the federal capital.

All routes from Rawalpindi to Islamabad were sealed with containers and routes leading from Rawat Chowk to Islamabad Expressway were closed. Routes on Murree Road were also after various containers were placed.

The Faizabad area was completely sealed from the Express Highway, IJP Road and Murree Road and commuters going to Islamabad faced severe difficulties.

A heavy contingent of Rawalpindi police was also deployed around the blockades.

The Metro bus service and public transport were shut down in Rawalpindi, as were educational institutions, shopping malls and bus stands.

Containers also sealed both sides of the Rawalpindi Sawan Bridge while Rawalpindi to GT road was closed from the seventh bridge.
Simultaneously, in Lahore, a large contingent of police was deployed at Niazi Chowk and at the Ravi bridge. Lahore GT Road was also closed with the use of containers and police personnel stopped dozens of trucks on the road. The blockades have resulted in massive traffic jams near Babu Sabu Motorway Interchange in the provincial capital.
The incumbent coalition government on Tuesday decided to bar the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf from holding its ‘Azadi March’ to the capital on May 25 (today), raising the alarm that if the “bloody march” is not nipped in the bud, it would “put the survival of the nation at risk”.

In order to pre-empt the anticipated “chaos and disorder”, the government has further imposed a ban on gatherings under Section 144 (power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The decision to quell the PTI agitation comes amid the government’s anxious measures to shield itself with thousands of security personnel who rolled into the federal capital a day earlier and a slew of arrests and raids on the homes of party leaders. The government has virtually encircled itself with a moat to insulate itself from the marchers.