The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday sought to expand its “Jail Bharo” movement from Lahore to Peshawar, claiming local leaders and workers of the party from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will court arrest as part of efforts to seek an election date for Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
In a video statement, PTI Peshawar President Mohammad Atif Khan asked all local leaders and workers who have signed up for voluntary arrest to reach the Gul Bahar Police Station at 11 a.m. “Workers from Charsadda, Swabi, Nowshera, Mardan and Peshawar should assemble on G.T. Road in front of Gul Bahar police station,” he said, adding that they would then proceed toward Hashtnagri Chowk to seek arrests. The PTI, similar to its drive in Lahore, is aiming to have 200 people arrested from Peshawar on the first day of the drive in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital.
The party also issued the names of leaders that would offer their arrest, including former chief minister Pervez Khattak; former governor Shah Farman; and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser.
The party’s expansion of its Jail Bharo movement comes after a lackluster response in Lahore, where Punjab Police said only get 81 of the 200 people the PTI had claimed would court arrest had been taken into custody. Of these, said the police, were prominent leaders Asad Umar, Omar Sarfraz Cheema, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Azam Swati, who had been detained under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order, which allows for a month’s detention.
Claiming that there is no more space within jails in Lahore, the PTI leaders have all been shifted to other prisons in Punjab. According to police, Qureshi is in Attock Jail; Swati Rahim Yar Khan; Cheema Bhakkar; and Umar Rajanpur.
Despite earlier claiming to remain in prison until a date for elections had been announced, the party’s leaders have already submitted pleas for their production in the Lahore High Court. It is unclear if similar concessions have also been sought for the workers who were also arrested from Lahore.
A visibly perturbed Imran Khan, in a televised address on Wednesday, praised the people of Lahore for supporting the “Jail Bharo” movement. However, the speech was more focused on criticizing the government’s austerity measures and offered little commentary on the ongoing drive.