Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has started its Jail Bharo Tehreek with party workers converging at the Charing Cross in Lahore Wednesday afternoon to court arrests.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Omar Cheema and Azam Swati forced their way inside a prison van. PTI workers also climbed on top of the prison van, chanting slogans. They were arrested.
So far seven PTI leaders and 41 have offered themselves for arrest voluntarily.
Other leaders and workers who were arrested so far are: Murad Ras, Ehsan Dogar, Siddiq Khan, Azam Niazi, Abdul Wakil Khan, Gulfam Virk, Mohammad Rehan, Hameedullah, Mian Shahzad, Nooran Sohail, Rana Mannan, Chaudhry Zahid, Malik Sajid, Muhammad Ahmed Bhatti, Shahzad Khokhar, Azar Bhatti, Waleed Iqbal, Fawad Bhullar, Wajid Shah, Fayyaz Masih, Muhammad Zulfiqar, Jahangir Chaudhry, Afzal Khan, Liaquat Mir, Zafar Aslam, Saqib Saleem Butt, Zaheerullah, Malik Shakeel, Iqbal Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Nasir Mehmood, Zubair Khan Farooq Nishat Aziz, Muhammad Danish, Malik Ahmed, Muhammad Shahbaz, Hajiullah Rakha, Aym Khan, Rana Irfan, Tahir Mehmood, Ejaz Kunit and Mir Khalid Amin.
PTI leaders who were moved to the Lahore District Lahore refused to stay there. They were then moved to the Kot Lakhpat Jail.
Earlier, the jail bharo tehreek formally began at 3pm when PTI workers arrived at the Charing Cross.
PTI’s Yasmin Rashid said the party had planned to bring only two hundred people but a higher number had turned up.
She said no one will offer resistance to security forces when the arrests are made. The workers will wait at the Charing Crossing until 6pm before returning home, she said.
When police did not immediately move in to arrest anyone, Yasmin Rashid saw it as a sign of victory for the jail bharo tehreek.
However, as soon as party leaders forced their way into the prison van, the police also started arresting party workers. PTI’s Lahore Secretary General Zubair was the first to be arrested.
Speaking to Aaj News from the prison van as he was being moved away, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was told to get into the prison van and that he was under arrest.
He said he thought the van will take him to the CCPO office but it had passed the CCPO office and he did not know where he will be taken to. “But wherever they take [me], it will become clear.”
He said he could take pride in the fact that before party workers he, the party vice chairman, had courted arrest.
Afte talking in the leaders and arresting a few worker the police also made an offer using megaphones: Anyone wanting to be arrested could come and sit in the police van.
Three van-load of PTI workers were moved to the district jail.
The party earlier announced that the protest was to officially begin at Charing Cross in Lahore at 2pm.
Workers will gather at PTI’s office in Lahore from where they will march to Charing Cross to offer their arrest, it said.
Section 144 was imposed in Lahore, so large gatherings were prohibited.
Police sources said arrests would be made for violating section 144 and cases would be registered only once the people are already arrested. They could be charged with sloganeering, blocking roads and threatening law and order.
Police say they would also check the criminal record of people arrested in the protest to verify if they are wanted in any other protest.
Imran Khan’s message
PTI Chairman Imran Khan tweeted that filling jails was a ‘peaceful, non violent protest against the attack on constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.’
He also called it a protest against the ‘economic meltdown brought on by cabal of crooks’.
He posted a video message on Twitter at the eve of the protest.
’Fill the jails and smash the idols of fear,“ he says in the video.
Imran Khan had originally announced the protest on February 4 in response to the government’s crackdown on PTI workers and allies including the arrests of Fawad Chaudhry and Sheikh Rasheed.
Schedule of the Jail Bharo Tehreek
The jail bharo movement will reach Peshawar on February 23 , Rawalpindi on February 24, Multan on February 25, Gujranwala on February 26, Sargodha on February 27, Sahiwal on February 28 and Faisalabad on March 1.
PTI’s plan is for sround 200 workers to offer arrests in each stage of the protest. They will also be accompanied by a group six former members of the national and provincial assemblies.
In case the police do not arrest the PTI workers, they will begin a sit-in at the same location.
This story is being updated.