ISLAMABAD - Taking strong exception to the Punjab government crackdown on Pashtun Tahafuz Movement activists in Lahore, Maryam Nawaz demanded of the provincial government to immediately release them.

In a surprise move, Maryam Nawaz spoke against her own party government and through a tweet on way back from London she said: “Our Pashtun brothers should be released and they should be allowed to stage their protest.”

PTM activists wanted to hold rally at Mochi Gate Lahore on Sunday and but the Punjab government launched a crackdown on Saturday night and arrested several activists and leaders from various parts of Lahore.

The PTM activists, however, gathered at the venue on Sunday evening and held the rally, which was addressed by several leaders.

Since Saturday night, the social media was abuzz with reports of crackdown and arrests of PTM activists.

After the arrest and on the call of PTM leaders, protests demonstrations were held in Quetta and Peshawar to condemn the police crackdown on the activists who were conveying their grievances and demands to the authorities.

Maryam Nawaz came down hard on Punjab authorities and demanded the immediate release of the PTM leaders and activists and also demanded of the Punjab govt to allow them to hold the rally at Mochi Gate.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and close aide to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Senator Pervaiz Rashid also termed the police action against PTM activists uncalled-for and demanded of the Punjab government to release them immediately and also facilitate them to hold a peaceful rally at Mochi Gate.

Political observers are terming the criticism on Punjab government by Maryam Nawaz and those toeing her policy significant which showed a split and grouping in the party, though it was vehemently denied by party president Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.

In the past, Maryam Nawaz on some occasions had also pointed out flaws in the functioning of the Punjab government and demanded immediate steps to put the things in order.

The PTM with its origin in restive tribal areas was mainly launched for the protection of the rights of Pashtuns, who had been suffering from violence, destruction and displacement for the last over 15 years due to the war in their area before the army launched various operations against the Taliban and other militants.