Home Latest News PTI Gears Up for ‘Jail Bharo’ Movement

PTI Gears Up for ‘Jail Bharo’ Movement

Party to kick off from Lahore latest attempt at triggering general elections

by Staff Report

File photo of PTI chief Imran Khan

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will commence its “Jail Bharo” (fill jails) movement from Lahore and Faisalabad today (Wednesday), aiming to have 200 of its supporters arrested daily until the issuance of a schedule for elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“Fill up prisons and shatter the idols of fear,” PTI chief Imran Khan said in a video statement posted on Twitter, echoing earlier speeches in which he had said that the party had decided to “fulfil the government’s desire” to detain members of the PTI. However, despite earlier claiming an intent to “lead” the movement, Khan would not be offering himself up for arrest initially—as also evidenced by him securing protective bail until March 3 from the Lahore High Court on Monday night.

Local media has reported that the PTI would launch the Jail Bharo Tehreek after a meeting of the party leadership at the Zaman Park residence of Imran Khan. Following the meeting, party supporters would march to The Mall—where the Punjab government has imposed Section 144 barring gatherings of more than five people—in Lahore in a bid to court arrest. ARY News, citing party sources, has reported that if police refuse to arrest the PTI workers, they would stage a sit-in at Charing Cross.

According to the schedule issued by the PTI, the party’s movement would spread to other cities on a daily basis. After Lahore and Faisalabad, it said, workers in Peshawar would seek their arrests on Feb. 23. This would be followed by Rawalpindi on Feb. 24; Multan on Feb. 25; Gujranwala on Feb. 26; Sargodha on Feb. 27; and Sahiwal on Feb. 28.

Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, the PTI’s focal person for the Jail Bharo Tehreek, told media it would prove a massive “success,” claiming that over 2,000 volunteers had signed up for the first day of the drive even though the party had only asked for 200. To a question, he clarified that no party leaders who are contesting elections would participate.

Senior leadership

However, mid-tier leaders, including former Punjab governor Umer Sarfraz Cheema, Senator Waleed Iqbal, and former Punjab minister Murad Raas would join the 200 workers seeking arrest on the first day of the movement.

According to PTI Senior Vice-President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the party’s entire top leadership is ready for arrests. “Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar insisted that they would give themselves for arrest on the first day of the movement,” he told media, adding that the party’s leadership believes that it would be more beneficial if they waited until a more opportune time.

Reiterating claims by Khan that “hundreds” of PTI workers would soon “fill up” prisons and police stations across Punjab, he said the movement was aimed at protesting human rights violations, inflation, and the deal with the International Monetary Fund—which was inked by the PTI while it was in government.

Qureshi, in a separate statement, said he and four other PTI leaders would surrender themselves and if the police refused to arrest them, they would attempt a second time in Multan. However, he told media on Wednesday afternoon that the PTI chief had told him to wait until later. He also maintained that if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issues an election schedule in line with President Arif Alvi’s “announcement,” the movement would be brought to a halt.

Alvi, on Monday, announced April 9 as the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, claiming he was taking the step to “avoid a breach of the Constitution.” However, his statement has triggered controversy, with government lawmakers claiming that he lacks the authority to announce the date for any provincial elections and is only the competent authority for National Assembly polls.

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