PTI suspends election rally amid chaos after imposition of Section 144 in Lahore

Imran Khan-led party fails to kick start its election campaign with rally due to restrictions, worker's death

Azam Malik
Lahore police fire tear gas at PTI workers in Lahore, on March 8, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — Twitter/@PTIOfficial
Lahore police fire tear gas at PTI workers in Lahore, on March 8, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — Twitter/@PTIOfficial

  • PTI claims police violence led to worker's death.
  • Section 144 imposed in Lahore amid "threats".
  • Imran Khan berates interim Punjab government.

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Wednesday told its workers to return to their homes "peacefully" after police arrested several people for violating CrPC Section 144.

The party workers and supporters were taken into custody from the Zaman Park area where PTI Chairman Imran Khan's residence is located, 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 today.

In a statement, PTI senior leader Hammad Azhar blamed the Punjab caretaker government and the Centre for seeking "chaos" and said that despite the polls' schedule being announced, the party was not allowed for electioneering.

"I am telling all my workers to return home peacefully. They want us to resort to chaos, but we will not let them succeed," he added.

The former energy minister said that the police fired tear gas shells at workers in some places they are still doing the same.

Death of worker

In a press conference later, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said that a party worker, Ali Bilal, is "lying in Services Hospital" and demanded an explanation from Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi.

He claimed that the interim government wanted to "shed blood" today and accomplished its mission.

PTI leaders claim that the administration is to blame for their party worker's death.

The Services Hospital administration told Geo News that the PTI worker sustained an injury to his head, while the reason behind his death is yet to be determined. 

Reacting to the demise of Ali Bilal, Imran Khan wrote on his official Twitter handle, asking all PTI representatives across the country to offer funeral prayer in absentia tomorrow (Thursday).

Police personnel sustain injuries

Meanwhile, the Punjab Police shared details of their injured personnel. Taking to their Twitter handle, the Capital City Police Lahore mentioned that 11 police officers, including two DSPs, and one SHO, were injured after the PTI mob "attacked" them.

Why was Section 144 imposed?

In a notification issued today, 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.

The order issued by Punjab government.
The order issued by Punjab government.

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 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 the security of the people and installations/buildings against any potential terrorist or untoward activity, in the larger interest of public safety, security, peace and tranquillity.

Interior minister defends Punjab govt

Addressing a press conference earlier in the day, 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.

'SC ruling is defied'

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."