Govt cracks down on PPP, cancels trains from Sindh
* PPP claims 20,000 workers arrested
* Several wounded in clash with Karachi police
By Mubasher Bokhari and Razzak Abro
LAHORE: Police continued cracking down on Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) activists on Thursday and arrested thousands of them from all over the country while Pakistan Railways (PR) cancelled and barred group reservations in trains bound for Lahore till April 16.
The PPP claimed the government had arrested about 20,000 party leaders and activists countrywide in a bid to stop them from welcoming Asif Ali Zardari, set to land at Lahore Airport tomorrow (Saturday). Also, dozens of PPP activists were injured and at least 100 were arrested during a clash with police at Karachi Cantt Railway Station on Thursday evening.
The clash started when PPP activists gathered at the railway station with flags and welcome banners in hand to board Lahore-bound trains to welcome Asif Ali Zardari arriving in Lahore tomorrow (Saturday) and were baton-charged by police.
Many activists succeeded in entering the station and police followed them and beat them in an attempt to disperse them.
Punjab PPP Media Adviser Muhammad Iqbal Sialwi said on Thursday that police had arrested more than 2,000 PPP leaders and activists from several Punjab cities to prevent the planned welcome for Asif Zardari. However, Punjab PPP President Qasim Zia and MNA Sherry Rehman claimed that police had arrested about 15,000 workers in the Punjab. She also said the party would issue a list to the local international media today (Friday).
Police continued raiding the homes of PPP activists in Lahore and arrested hundreds. “They are beating PPP activists including women and are treating them badly,” said PPP Federal Council Secretary General Khalid Ahmad Khan Kharal. Some PPP activists were arrested in front of Lahore Airport.
Mr Sialwi said hundreds of PPP stalwarts were detained in Pakpattan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Jhelum, Deena, Hafizabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Okara, Vehari, Burewala, Mailsi, Multan, Shujaabad, Bahawalpur, Chishtian, Bahawalnagar, Faisalabad, Samundari, Gujrat, Toba Tek Singh, Kamoke, Nowshera Virkan, Muraliwala and Rahwali.
Meanwhile, Karachi PPP leaders told a press conference at Karachi Press Club that Railways had cancelled the seats of at least six carriages reserved by the PPP. The PPP leaders called this an unlawful act on PR’s part, as it could not cancel seats that had been paid for.
PPP sources also said PR had cancelled 700 seats booked for Lahore by local PPP leaders and activists allegedly to stop them from travelling to Lahore to welcome Asif Zardari.
Also, a party spokesman claimed that more than 5,000 party activists had been arrested across Sindh. Similar incidents were reported from Sukkur, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Badin, Nawabshah, Nowsheroferoze, Mithi, Dadu, Thatta and other areas of the province. Capital City Police Officer Tariq Jameel denied the PPP claim of police arresting about 100 activists.