Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, has announced that the government will initially send members of the opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who have voluntarily volunteered for arrest to remote jails before sending them to Lahore or Rawalpindi prisons.
This declaration was made at a press conference in Islamabad, where the Minister disclosed that the PTI’s “Jail Bharo” movement had already resulted in the arrests of between 100 and 150 people. This movement aims to oppose the policies of the government and pressure the ruling coalition to call for elections.
According to Sanaullah, 80% of those detained wanted to be released. He also said that everyone who took part in the PTI drive was detained for 30 days. He added that the reason for sending them to distant jails was to familiarize them with those settings since they had desired to enter prison themselves.
A number of petitions have been submitted to the Lahore High Court expressing worry that the PTI leaders and employees who have been detained may face unjustified accusations of taking part in illegal activities and that they are being taken to unidentified locations to be tortured. Despite not directly addressing these issues, Sanaullah emphasized that the judiciary must be respected and that weakening it would worsen the nation’s problems.
While pointing out that allegations of “bench-fixing” should be investigated, he specifically mentioned a controversial audio leak attributed to former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who allegedly maintains close relationships with a Supreme Court judge. The top court was urged by Sanaullah to take suo motu notice of these allegations.
The Minister also criticized Imran Khan, the former prime minister, accusing him of fomenting unrest and decrying the “Jail Bharo” movement as a “big walk of shame.” He claimed Khan was a troublemaker who had done nothing to advance the nation, noting that Khan had initially intended to bring a sea of people to the capital before declaring he would pack the jails.
As a result, although the “Jail Bharo” movement continues to be a source of conflict between the government and opposition, the Interior Minister has stressed the need to respect the judiciary and maintain stability.