LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Wednesday told its workers to return to their homes “peacefully” after a party worker was killed, 21 others were injured in clashes and the police arrested dozens of others for violating Section 144 of the CrPC.
The deceased was identified as Ali Bilal alias Zil-e-Shah, a resident of Jahangir Town. He was baton-charged violently, resulting in his death, party leaders said.
PTI alleged that shells were even fired from the premises of Aitchison College by the police. Besides, till the filing of the report, a boy was also reportedly killed due to the use of poisonous substances mixed in the water canon meant to disperse the PTI workers.
At least 11 police personnel including two DSPs and one SHO were also injured due to violence by the PTI workers. DSP Sabzazar and Township SHO Hanjarwal, Constables Irfan, Nadeem, Bilal, Waqar, Abdul Sattar, Ali Ismat, Sikandar, and Ali Hamza were among the injured personnel.
The condition of one of the injured people was said to be critical. Police said that the PTI had announced a pro-judiciary rally and gave a call to its workers to gather at party chief Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence.
The party leaders announced cancelling the rally saying the government wanted bloodshed to make it an excuse for postponing elections. PTI Chairman Imran Khan did not come out of his Zaman Park residence to lead the rally after receiving reports of police arresting and torturing the party activists. In a message on Twitter, he accused the provincial police of brutality and murdering party worker Ali Bilal in clashes near his residence in Lahore.
“Ali Bilal unarmed & our dedicated & passionate PTI worker murdered by Punjab police,” the former prime minister said in a tweet.
“Shameful, this brutality on unarmed PTI workers, who were coming to attend election rally. Pakistan is in the grip of murderous criminals. We will file cases against IG, CCPO & others for murder,” he added. Shortly afterwards, Imran Khan called off the rally alleging that the caretaker administration had launched a crackdown on the PTI supporters not in the interest of law and order, but to avoid elections in Punjab province. In a video address, Imran told party workers “to return home peacefully” as the government was instigating demonstrators “to resort to chaos, but we will not let them succeed”.
He questioned under what law the caretaker government of Punjab imposed the ban considering that “hardly 55 days [are] left” for elections to take place in the province after the dissolution of the provincial assembly. Imran said that the ban was in “brazen contempt of the [Supreme Court’s] SC”. Dozens of party workers and supporters were taken into custody from the Zaman Park area after the Punjab Home Department imposed Section 144 — banning public rallies ahead of the PTI’s election campaign and Aurat March, which were planned for the day.
The Punjab police started arresting PTI workers, who started to gather at The Mall road to participate in the scheduled rally of the party which would be led by former prime minister Imran Khan.
The PTI election rally, led by Imran Khan, was scheduled to commence from Zaman Park and after passing through The Mall road underpass, FC College Underpass, Ichhra, Ferozepur Road close to Muslim Town Morr, Samanabad, LOS Chowk, Lytton Road, MAO College, PMG Chowk, Government College and Central Model School, it was to culminate at Data Darbar.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar lambasted Interim Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, saying he was ending democracy by refusing any political activity in the city even though the elections were scheduled for April 30.
Talking to the media outside Zaman Park, he said the caretaker government’s only responsibility was to conduct elections but it was creating hindrances in the election campaign by banning any rallies and political activity. He alleged that the incumbent government wanted bloodshed in the city, and he directed party workers to remain peaceful and refrain from any clashes.
Taking to Twitter, he shared a picture of three PTI activists who had allegedly been arrested.
The former energy minister said that the police fired tear gas shells at workers in some places they are still doing the same.
PTI leaders Farrukh Habib, Azhar Mashwani and Mussarat Cheema reiterated the claims of violence and brutality by the Punjab police on party supporters coming to attend the rally.
“The fascist government has crossed all limits of brutality. An old worker of PTI Ali Bilal was martyred due to police brutality and violence. The imported government has started shedding the blood of [political] workers,” Farrukh Habib said in a tweet.
The PTI released videos on its Twitter handle, showing that police were using water cannons and arresting workers on Canal Road. It also showed police smashing the glasses of vehicles of participants of the gathering at Zaman Park.
Meanwhile, PTI Central President Chaudhry Parvez Elahi condemned the arrests of PTI’s peaceful workers and police violence and said that Imran Khan was the voice of the oppressed. He said the government’s days were numbered and the people’s protests had proved how much these rulers were afraid of the election.
Earlier, in a notification issued on Wednesday, the Home Department observed that number of rallies and protests are held therein on daily basis at different places of 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 and protests, wherein, a number of police officials and civilians embraced 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 CrPC, 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.
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