A joint team of law enforcement agencies and Islamabad police apprehended former Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) Ali Nawaz Awan and Malik Aamir Dogar, along with their two hosts in the Battal area, Mansehra on Thursday.
Both former MNAs are from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The arrests took place during a raid on the residence of Hizbullah, chairman of the Battal neighborhood council and a prominent PTI leader.
The whereabouts of the detainees, including Hizbullah and his cousin Zaheer Khan, remain unknown, with local police maintaining silence on the matter.
Awan, who serves as the PTI’s central additional secretary-general, represented Islamabad as an MNA, while Dogar hails from Multan city.
Both had gone into hiding as law enforcement agencies intensified their crackdown on PTI leaders and activists following the May 9 attacks on military and government installations across the country.
Expressing strong reservations, PTI has declared the arrests illegal. Ajmal Khan Swati, former PTI information secretary in Hazara division, urged an immediate end to what he termed an “illegal” crackdown on their party.
“These arrests should stop immediately,” he said.
The PTI leader said his party wanted a level-playing field to participate in general elections just like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, JUI-F and others in the country.
He complained that the police didn’t allow the PTI to hold a workers’ convention in the locality and ransacked the venue despite court orders telling the government to allow PTI to carry out political activities, including canvassing.
“Police committed contempt of court by blocking our workers’ convention despite the Peshawar High Court’s permission,” he said.
Crackdown in Lahore Raises Concerns
Simultaneously, the Lahore police initiated a fresh crackdown on PTI workers and activists, resulting in multiple arrests over the last three days.
Acting on a new list of 884 PTI workers, labeled as ‘new targets,’ the investigation police targeted individuals considered part of the ‘B team’ of PTI’s top leadership.
The list, comprising names, addresses, CNIC numbers, and mobile phone records, identified workers who allegedly made calls from protest venues during the May 9 violence against law enforcement agencies.
Lahore DIG Investigation Imran Kishwar confirmed that the list was prepared based on information obtained during the interrogation of those arrested in connection with the May 9 attacks.
“It took the Lahore investigation police 45 days to identify 884 new party workers and activists who were physically present at the Jinnah House and the Zaman Park,” he says, adding that many of them also took part in violent attacks at multiple sites on May 9.
“The locations of most of them were traced at the Jinnah House and the Zaman Park from where they made mobile phone calls to contact the senior party leaders,” the officer alleges.
Similarly, the police accessed their social media accounts for verification and got credible evidence of their physical presence at the attacked sites/venues through the posts they shared and the ones they later deleted to avoid arrests, the DIG investigation says.
He further adds that the mobile phone data analysis of the already arrested senior political leaders of the PTI also helped the police identify the party activists and their involvement in the May 9 violence.
“The major arrest was of Altaf Mahmood, a PTI hardcore activist, whose name was missing from the first list of May 9 attacks. He was the first who set some goods on fire at the Jinnah House (Corps Commander House) when he brought petrol bombs and other such inflammable material in a bag,” Mr Kishwar alleges.
The arrests followed an earlier action against 1,958 PTI members, with outcomes ranging from innocence to obtaining bail or being declared proclaimed offenders.