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The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has raised serious concerns over the harassment, raids, and illegal arrests of its workers during the nomination process for the upcoming General Election in 2024. The incidents, spanning various regions of the country, have cast a shadow over the democratic process.

In a shocking turn of events, Umar Ayoub, a PTI worker, was arrested on December 22, 2023, in Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), as he arrived at the Returning Office (RO) to submit his nomination papers. Ch Munawar Ali Gull faced a similar fate in Sialkot on December 21, 2023, when he too was arrested upon reaching the RO for the submission of his nomination papers.

PTI leader Mian Tariq Mehmood alleges that the police are obstructing PTI lawyers from entering the offices of returning officers for the submission of nomination papers in NA-77. The party further claims that the arrests are not isolated incidents, with an anti-terrorism court issuing non-bailable arrest warrants for 51 PTI leaders, including prominent figures such as Zartaj Gul Wazir, Umar Ayub, Farrukh Habib, Hammad Azhar, Zulfi Bukhari, Zain Qureshi, Usman Dar, Col Ajmal Sabir Raja, Usman Saeed Basra, Ashraf Khan Sohna, Sikandar Zaib, Raja Rashid Hafeez, Arif Abbasi, Malik Taimoor Masood, Wasiq Qayyum, Chaudhry Javed Kausar, Chaudhry Sajid, Ejaz Khan and Samuel Yaqoob, in connection with May 9 attacks.

The alleged harassment extends to incidents like police snatching nomination papers from a representative of PTI Vice President of North Punjab, Mehr Ansar Iqbal Haral, in front of the RO office in Sargodha. Similar instances occurred in NA-87 (Khushab), where the representative of PTI leader Malik Umar Aslam Awan was arrested and had his nomination papers seized. Even ticket holder Usama Hamza from NA-105 faced arrest while attempting to file his nomination papers. Similarly from NA-156 Advocate Mukhtar Butt and Shahbaz Qureshi went to submit nomination papers of Ayesha Nazeer Jutt were also detained and transferred to a unknown place.

From Wazirabad, Lawyers of Ahmad Chatha were tortured by Police when they arrived to submit his nomination papers, Rating Officer was also arrested. In NA-72, PP-49 Pasrur Sialkot: Nomination papers of former provincial minister Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, Ahsan Abbas were received but no receiving was given by Rating Officer. From NA-179 Rating Officer didn’t allowed Shabir Ali Qureshi to submit nomination paper and vanished upon his arrival. In Chakwal-Talagang The lawyers who brought the nomination papers of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, Hafiz Amar Yasir, Qaisara Elahi were arrested and the papers were not received by the RO. From Vehari PP-234 on the order of the Returning Officer Vehari, the police arrested Hamad Raza Jat, Advocate, who was going to submit the nomination papers of candidate Zahid Iqbal Chaudhry. The police also took away the file of nomination papers of Zahid Iqbal Chaudhry. From Sarghoda NA-84, Shafqat Abbas Awan, was about to submit his nomination papers, then Rating Officer Arshad Ahmad Watto, closed his office and disappeared.

In a concerning development, Gojra City police registered a case against 36 PTI activists for a procession on May 9, accusing them of raising slogans against the Pakistan army. Meanwhile, in Mianwali, police reportedly broke into the house of Dawn correspondent Khursheed Anwar Khan, allegedly due to his reporting on incidents of nomination paper snatching and his assistance to PTI district vice president Amara Niazi.

Rawalpindi Police obtained arrest warrants for 63 existing and former PTI leaders involved in May 9 rioting incidents. PTI accuses the administration and police of hindering candidates’ efforts to obtain nomination papers. Notably, in Mianwali, PTI accuses DSP Qaiser Sheikh of forcibly taking Barrister Umair Niazi’s nomination papers. While in Okara FIR of robbery was registered against PTI candidates Mehr Abdul Sattar and Rai Hamad after submitting nomination papers

Faced with these challenges, PTI has approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking a level playing field in the general elections amid reports of hurdles in the filing of nomination papers. These incidents have sparked widespread concern about the integrity of the democratic process as the nation prepares for the crucial General Election in 2024.

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