Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Sunday postponed its election rally in Lahore which was to be led by its Chairman Imran Khan — who announced the development on Twitter.
In the announcement, which was confirmed by his party member Hammad Azhar in a press conference a few minutes later, Khan informed PTI workers that the rally has been postponed till "tomorrow" (Monday).
The development came a few hours after the party challenged the imposition of Section 144 by Punjab government in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He wrote about Section 144 being imposed “illegally” once again “solely” on his party's election campaign, while other public activities continue in the city.
"It seems again Section 144 has been imposed illegally solely on PTI election campaign as all other public activities are ongoing in Lahore. Only Zaman Park has been surrounded by containers and heavy police contingent," Khan tweeted.
The PTI chairman alleged that Punjab interim Chief Minister Mohsin Raza Naqvi and the provincial police clearly "want to provoke clashes" — like they did on March 8.
He added that the government will file "more sham FIRs" against the PTI leadership and workers to use as an excuse to delay elections.
"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," he wrote in his tweet.
Hammad Azhar also said that the rally might be staged tomorrow or at a later date.
"We want peaceful elections and peaceful transfer of power and it is possible that the rally might be held tomorrow," he said, adding that the authorities should open the roads.
The PTI, earlier today, was set to hold its election rally and also challenged the Section 144 in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The PTI, earlier today, was set to hold its election rally and approached the ECP to challenge Section 144.
The plea, filed by PTI leader Babar Awan on Khan's instructions, deemed the imposition of Section 144 "illegal".
"The ECP should dispose of the implementation of Section 144 as it is illegal," the petition read.
The Punjab government Saturday night again announced a ban on "large gatherings" in the provincial capital to avoid any "untoward incidents".
This is the second time in less than a week that the interim government has imposed the restriction ahead of the PTI's election rally — which has severely criticised the caretaker set-up for being "partial".
It said that by imposing Section 144, the Punjab government is violating Para 15 of the Supreme Court's order. The petition also stated that the routes of the rally and the Pakistan Super League (PSL) match are different.
"The PTI's rally will conclude at 5:30pm while the PSL will begin at 7pm," it said, adding that Section 144 has never been imposed in any city amid PSL matches.
The election campaign is PTI's constitutional right and the provincial government is stopping the campaign illegally.
Awan, while speaking to the media persons later, reiterated that the timings and routes of the match and rally are different.
"Imposing Section 144 on the entire city is not justifiable and the interim government decided to put a ban using PSL as an excuse," he said.
He added that Khan wants to stage a rally as it is the party's constitutional right.
PTI leader Yasmin Rashid has also submitted a request against the provincial government's decision to ban rallies in ECP's office in Lahore.
Awan, while speaking to the media persons, reiterated that the timings and routes of the match and rally are different.
The police have started blocking the roads leading to Zaman Park. The road leading from Mall Road to Canal Road and Harbanspura to Zaman Park has been closed.
Moreover, a heavy contingent of police has been deployed on various routes.
Meanwhile, acknowledging that it had received the PTI’s applications, the ECP said that Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja has summoned a meeting for 10:30am tomorrow.
On the other hand, interim Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Raza Naqvi said that there is no ban on political activities and parties are allowed to campaign freely.
However, he said that the government has restricted rallies and political activities for today due to PSL.
"Imposing Section 144 on the entire city is not justifiable and the interim government decided to put a ban using PSL as an excuse," he said, adding that Khan wants to stage a rally as it is the party's constitutional right.
The Punjab government, in its letter to the Ministry of Interior, has asked the federal government to provide it with Rangers in the city to maintain the law and order.
The letter stated that the Rangers should be deployed with immediate effect till March 22.
A day earlier, the former prime minister said he would lead the rally himself.
"I will lead the election rally to show them that we are not domesticated animals," the former prime minister told his party workers during his address via video link.
Speaking to his party workers, Khan said that the “powerful” segments want to get the upcoming general elections in Punjab and KP cancelled at all costs.
"They would try to get the polls cancelled by assassinating him or bomb blasts [...] I know that they will do something to stop the election,” the PTI chairman added.
The general elections in Punjab are scheduled to be held on April 30, while the date for the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is yet to be announced as Governor Ghulam Ali has not decided.
During PTI's rally on Wednesday, clashes broke out between party workers and the Punjab Police, leaving several wounded.
Meanwhile, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi instructed the party workers to reach Zaman Park despite the ban. "Imran Khan will lead the rally today as it was decided in the meeting," he said.
Qureshi said that the date for the elections has been announced, hence, it is not justified to stop them from staging a rally.
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