LAHORE: After the enforcement of Section 144 in Lahore on Wednesday, several Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers were taken into custody from the Zaman Park area for violating the ban, Geo News reported citing police.
The party workers were arrested from the vicinity where PTI Chairman Imran Khan's residence is located, while gearing up for a rally that will mark the beginning of PTI's election campaign.
In the latest development in the political scenario, the Punjab government had earlier in the day imposed a ban on public gatherings and assemblies in Lahore as the city prepares to host two major events, Aurat March and PTI's rally.
Punjab Home Department issued a notification for imposing Section 144, under which there will be a ban on rallies, assemblies, protests, sit-ins and other forms of public gatherings across the city.
The notification stated that a number of rallies and protests are held therein on daily basis at different places in Lahore, which not only pose serious security threats but also disrupt traffic and cause inconvenience to the public at large.
There is also a history of terrorist activities in the rallies/protests, wherein, a number of police officials and civilians embarrassed shahadat, it noted.
“Hence, in the context of the prevailing overall security situation in the wake of the recent wave of terrorism and latest threat alerts, it has been necessary to impose Section 144 of Cr.P.C, 1898 on holding of all kinds of assemblies, gatherings, sits-in, rallies, processions, demonstrations, jalsas, dharnas, protests and such like other activities across the district Lahore to avert any untoward incident,” the notification added issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Shakeel Ahmed.
The order stated that due to prevailing threats, it is essential to ensure security of the people and installations/buildings against any potential terrorist or untoward activity, in the larger interest of public safety, security, peace and tranquility.
The ban on public rallies with just hours left in the Aurat March and PTI’s election rally is likely to receive a strong backlash from civil society.
In a series of tweets, PTI Chairman Khan said that a five-member Supreme Court bench ordered elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and asked President Arif Alvi to announce the date of the polls, "which he does — 30 April".
He said that with hardly 55 days left, PTI kicks off the election rally in Lahore. "Under what law, [and] in brazen contempt of SC, Punjab caretaker govt uses massive police violence against unarmed workers to stop our planned rally?"
He said that the only job of caretakers is to ensure fair and free elections. "What they are doing is an assault on rule of law, our Constitution & democracy."
"Above all, once SC ruling is defied, it is now law of the jungle."
Addressing a press conference, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the government imposed Section 144 in light of reports by the security agencies.
He said that PTI had been asked to share the route of their rally but Imran Khan's group didn't provide any details.
The minister said that there were several events, including Aurat March and Haya March, simultaneously taking place in Lahore.
While mocking the PTI chief, Rana Sanaullah said, "Imrani fitna announced the burger march" and selected the same place for their election rally which the Aurat March rally organisers had already picked.
He said that "Fitna Khan found it fit to highlight his own fitna in between” all these happenings.
Sanaullah said that everything was being done in the same area therefore any untoward incident can occur in such a situation.
"On one hand, [Khan's] leg has a plaster on for five months and he can't move due to 72 years of age," he said, challenging Khan to appear in the courts if he has recovered from the bullet wounds he sustained in a bid on his life in Wazirabad last year.
He said that the courts had been seeking replies from the deposed prime minister but he is getting relief instead.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar, while speaking to the media persons, said that a large number of people will attend today's rally.
"How can you ban public gatherings when elections are taking place on April 30?" asked Azhar.
Asking the party workers to remain calm, Azhar said that they haven't taken law into their own hands.
"The rally was supposed to begin in a while but the roads are being blocked now," he said, adding that their workers are being arrested.
The PTI leader alleged that Rana Sanaullah wants bloodshed but the party will not give them a chance to do so. "They have imposed a ban on public gatherings to stop the rally," he added.
Azhar said the caretaker chief minister is obstructing the democratic process, however, his job is to only conduct elections. "It is not right to violate human rights just ahead of the elections."
He said that [the government] wants to create a Model Town-like situation in Zaman Park.
"The SSP had okayed the security situation last night but now a ban has been imposed," he added.
Government's move came hours after the home ministry's request to PTI to tighten security for today's rally, which will mark the beginning of the party's election campaign.
In a letter to Yasmin Rashid, PTI's core member from Lahore, the home ministry had asked the party leadership to make strict security arrangements for the rally in the provincial capital as there would be unusual activity in the city today due to Aurat March taking place on account of International Women's Day.
As the date for polls in Punjab draws closer, the PTI had announced launching its election campaign today under the leadership of party chief Imran Khan.
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