The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has postponed the election rally, scheduled for today (Sunday) at 2pm, till Monday (tomorrow), party chief Imran Khan announced.
“It seems again Sec 144 has been imposed illegally solely on PTI election campaign as all other public activities are ongoing in Lahore,” he said in a series of tweets. “Only Zaman Park has been surrounded by containers & heavy police contingent. Clearly, like 8 March, Punjab CM & police want to provoke clashes to file more sham FIRs against PTI ldrshp & workers & to use as pretext for postponing elections.”
The announcement came after the caretaker setup in Punjab banned gatherings of people in Lahore, prompting the PTI to summon a meeting of its leaders to decide the next course of action.
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code bans the gathering of five or more people and the holding of public gatherings and rallies.
But the former ruling party approached the Lahore High Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan against the order.
The country’s top electoral authority has decided to discuss the matter on Monday at 10:30am.
“Elec Schedule has been announced so how can Sec 144 be imposed on pol activity? I AM TELLING ALL PTI WORKERS NOT TO FALL INTO THIS TRAP. Hence we have postponed rally till tomorrow,” Imran said.
Qureshi slams Punjab govt for ‘double standards’
PTI would take legal action in consultation with senior leadership, party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters outside Zaman Park.
He alleged that the invocation of Section 144 was only for his party as Maryam Nawaz of the archrival party, PML-N, was holding conventions at the same time. Qureshi condemned the interim Punjab government over the “discriminating treatment”.
He claimed that the caretaker government hindered the PTI rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar. “Zaman Park routes were closed by placing containers. Whole Zaman Park has been surrounded,” he said, adding that applications for election have to be submitted on Sunday (today).
Qureshi said that his party was “peaceful” despite the death of worker Ahmed Bilal aka Zile Shah and the police crackdown on March 8. “They want to instigate us,” he said while expressing concerns over the presence of rangers and the placing of water cannons and containers.
He also said the party would not fall into the government’s “trap”. The party would take out a rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar on Monday, he said and advised cavalcades coming from different cities to continue their journey.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar had also announced the postponement decision in a press conference before Imran’s tweet.
“The party didn’t want more bodies to fall. The murder of PTI worker Bilal is covered up. The party wants a peaceful struggle. It is possible the rally might take place tomorrow. And it is possible that the rally may take place after tomorrow. But there is a chance of tomorrow too,” Azhar said as he urged his supporters to gear up for the rally.
ECP to discuss PTI pleas on Monday
The country’s top electoral authority has summoned a meeting of its officials on Monday (tomorrow) to discuss the petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf against the Punjab government’s decision to impose Section 144.
“On the requests of Dr Babar Awan and Dr Yasmin Rashid of PTI regarding the implementation of Section 144 by the Punjab government and the ban on election rallies, the chief election commissioner has called an important meeting of the commission tomorrow at 10:30am,” the ECP said in a tweet on Sunday.
Earlier, in the day the PTI, as decided in a late-night meeting, approached the ECP against the “illegal imposition of Section 144 in Lahore” by interim Punjab set up.
PTI chief Imran Khan announced his decision to start an election rally in Lahore on Sunday (today) at 2pm. But the caretaker government banned the public gathering through the imposition of Section 144 in the Punjab capital. Moreover, the deputy commissioner also apologised to the PTI leaders for not granting permission in view of the Pakistan Super League match.
The former ruling party filed petitions in ECP offices in Islamabad and Lahore against the interim government’s move. They demanded that the invocation should be declared null and void.
No ban on political activities: Mohsin Naqvi
Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi has said that no ban had been imposed on political activities in the city.
“All political parties are freely allowed to campaign,” he said in a tweet. The interim CM claimed that the government has restricted the public gatherings for Sunday due to the PSL match.
“We have restricted Rallies and Political activities for today as we have PSL cricket match, team movements and Marathon in Lahore which were all planned and announced much in advance,” he added.
PTI files application in LHC
As planned, the PTI decided to approach the Lahore High Court against the invocation of Section 144 in Lahore.
“We are waiting for the registrar. As soon as he comes we will put forward this emergent situation,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters. He was accompanied by Fawad Chaudhry.
Fawad was of the view that it was “impossible” to have elections in the ongoing scenario and urged the court to take up the petition.
In its petition, the PTI urged that the interim Punjab government’s orders pertaining to Section 144 in Lahore be “set aside”. It also demanded of the government to provide “sufficient security” to the PTI rally.
Earlier, PTI lawyer Babar Awan said that a petition had been filed in the Central Secretariat of the ECP in Islamabad against the ban on public gatherings.
The plea described the Punjab government’s decision as a “blatant violation” of the ECP’s code of conduct.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Yasmin Rashid also filed a similar petition in the ECP’s regional office in Lahore.
“ECP is requested to take notice of the illegal imposition of Section 144 in Lahore and the order may be declared null and void and without justification,” it said.
PTI election rally on Sunday
PTI chief Imran Khan has announced that he will lead an election campaign rally in Lahore at 2pm on Sunday (today).
The PTI has finalised two possible routes for the rally and informed the authorities. The rally will follow the route approved by the district administration, reported Aaj News.
Khan in his video address on Saturday evening urged supporters and workers to participate in the rally to condemn what he called police brutality.
He also denounced what he called the Punjab police’s attempt “cover up” the alleged custodial death of PTI worker Bilal aka Zillay Shah.
Imran Khan urged the Lahore High Court to form a judicial commission to probe the death.
Earlier in the day Punjab IGP Usman Anwar held a press conference and declared that Zillay Shah died in a road accident. Anwar claimed the PTI spun the narrative of custodial death for political gains.
Police have released statements of the two persons who had left Zillay Shah’s body at the Services Hospital. They were tracked and detained and the police have also seized an SUV owned allegedly by PTI leader Raja Shakeel.
In his video address, Imran Khan confirmed that it was one of the PTI workers who took Zillay Shah’s body to the hospital “after his body was left on the road following custodial death.”
He claimed the Punjab IGP should be ashamed of his statement since he was trying to cover up the death and believed that people were fools.
Khan said at least 60 marks on Bilal’s body proved that he was subjected to torture.
The PTI chairman alleged that the government wanted to cancel the election scheduled for April 30 and declare a state of emergency it may even kill him or plan a big terror attack.
Routes for the rally
The PTI has proposed two routes for Sunday’s rally, the first being the same as it had announced on Wednesday.
Under the first route, the rally will start at Zaman Park and proceed to Ferozepur Road ending at Data Darbar.
The second option will see the rally leave Zaman Park for Allama Iqbal Road and then proceed to Railway Sation, and Bhatti Chowk before ending at Data Darbar.
The rally will follow the route approved by the district administration.
Section 144 imposed
The caretaker set up of Punjab imposed Section 144 in Lahore hours after the former ruling party announced its decision to start an election rally in the city.
“The ban will be extended if an attempt is made to worsen the situation. The election campaign will start on April 6,” Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said at a press conference on Saturday.
He advised the PTI chairman to avoid the election rally, however, he also warned that strict action would be taken if the state writ was challenged. “There is still time, don’t take the law into your hands.”
Sources told Aaj News that the interim setup has also called in rangers to assist them in ensuring the law and order situation in the province.
Lahore DC apologises to PTI for not giving permission
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider apologised to the PTI for not giving permission for the rally because of the Pakistan Super League match.
The DC separately called many PTI leaders to inform them about her decision, saying that the day was “very sensitive” due to the movement of teams and their players. There would be no other no choice then imposing Section 144 in case of any violation, she added.
‘PTI will take out rally at all cost’
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry rejected the government’s decision to impose the ban on gatherings and announced that the party would take out the rally “at all cost”.
“Section 144 could not be imposed after the issuance of the election schedule,” he told Aaj News.
He wondered how polls could be held without rallies and public gatherings, adding that the party has approached the Election Commission of Pakistan on the matter. He demanded that such an order should be declared nullified.
The party has formed two applications against the order, sources said, as decided by the party’s senior leadership in a late-night meeting on Saturday.
The first request would be submitted by Yasmin Rashid to the ECP and the second would be sent to the Lahore High Court.
The party has maintained that the rally would be held during the day whereas the PSL match between Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings would be played at night.
PTI leader Arsalan Taj arrested
Meanwhile, PTI General Secretary for Karachi chapter Arsalan Taj was arrested from his residence by the police, the party claimed.
The PTI substantiated the claims by having the CCTV footage of Taj’s house.
Party leaders condemned the arrest and claimed that Taj’s life was in danger.
PTI chief Imran demanded the release of Taj, who he claimed was abducted in early hours of Sunday morning.
“All he did was mention Dirty Harry in his speech yesterday. Complete dismantling of our democracy & unravelling of Rule of Law. Fascism,” he tweeted.