LAHORE: In an “intentional coincidence,” the caretaker government on Saturday suspended political rallies in Lahore with immediate effect, hours after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) geared up for a rally on Sunday as part of its campaign for upcoming general elections in the province.
Addressing a press conference, caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said the government had imposed Section 144 in Lahore with immediate effect, due to “serious terror threats” and the beginning of HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches in the provincial capital.
“Imran Khan has announced the rally on a day – when PSL matches will start in Lahore and a marathon will also be taking place,” the minister elaborated, adding that a ban has been imposed on carrying out public rallies in Lahore on Sunday to “avert any untoward situation.”
Mir also said the election campaign in the province will start on April 6, urging Khan to cooperate with the Punjab government.
He also warned the former premier against violating the law, saying that strict action will be taken if “writ of the state is challenged”.
Reacting strongly to the Punjab government’s decision, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Ch rejected the imposition of Section 144 in the provincial capital, saying the party would carry out its rally as per schedule.
پنجاب حکومت کے سیاسی سرگرمیوں پر پابندی کی کوششوں کو مسترد کرتے ہیں، یہ لوگ زندگی میں کوئ الیکشن نہیں لڑے صرف سازشوں سے عہدے حاصل کر کے بیٹھے ہیں ، الیکشن کمیشن سے کہا ہے پنجاب حکومت کے 144 لگانے کے عمل کو کالعدم قرار دے، ریلی پروگرام کے مطابق ہو گی
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) March 11, 2023
Taking to his twitter handle soon after the caretaker minister’s press conference, Fawad Ch wrote: “We reject the Punjab government’s attempts to ban political activities. These people have never fought any election in their lives, they have only obtained positions through conspiracies.” “We have asked the Election Commission to annul the imposition of 144 by the Punjab government, and our rally will go on according to the program.”
PTI leader Hammad Azhar also tweeted and wrote: “Now only a psychologist can treat fears of the regime. Imran Khan sits at home and announces that he will leave now and all of them become goats.” He wrote: “The rulers have started using Section 144 as an anti-depressant for themselves.”
اب رجیم کے خوف کا علاج تو کوئی ماہر نفسیات ہی کر سکتا ہے۔ عمران خان گھر بیٹھ کر ابھی نکلنے کا اعلان ہی کرتے ہیں اور یہ سب بکری ہو جاتے ہیں۔ سیکشن 144 کو اِنھوں نے اپنے لئے بطور اینٹی ڈیپرسنٹ استعمال کرنا شروع کر دیا ہے۔ pic.twitter.com/B9u5l8kxZA
— Hammad Azhar (@Hammad_Azhar) March 11, 2023
Earlier, the Lahore district administration denied permission to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to hold the public rally in the provincial capital, the party planned in connection with Punjab Assembly elections.
A team of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders held a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Lahore to seek permission for the public rally on Sunday. However, the deputy commissioner refused to grant permission to the PTI, citing the ongoing HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches.
The Lahore administration also warned of imposing Section 144 if the ‘party does not postpone the rally’.
‘Will lead election rally tomorrow in Lahore’
Earlier in the day, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan announced he would lead a public rally tomorrow (Sunday) in connection with election campaign, launched for upcoming general elections in Punjab.
چئیرمین عمران خان نے کل لاہور میں الیکشن ریلی نکالنے کا اعلان کر دیا- pic.twitter.com/NvdK1MnVFD
— PTI (@PTIofficial) March 11, 2023
“I will lead the election rally on Sunday (today) at 2pm to show them [the government] that we are not domesticated animals,” Imran Khan said while addressing the party workers and supporters via video link. He directed the party workers and supporters to prepare for the ‘election campaign’.
The PTI chief warned that the incumbent government will do anything to ‘run away’ from the elections, reiterating his claim of another assassination attempt on him or an explosion.
“They [the incumbent rulers] want to kill me as they are afraid of the sea of people,” he said, vowing to fight ‘till the last drop of blood’.
The former premier strongly criticized the caretaker Punjab government and police for ‘killing’ the PTI worker – Ali Bilal aka Zille Shah – and terming the death ‘road accident’.
Referring to PTI worker Ali Bilal’s death, Imran Khan accused the Punjab caretaker government of covering up Zille Shah’s death, and urged the Lahore High Court (LHC) to constitute a judicial commission to probe the matter.
He strongly criticised the law enforces for ‘torturing Zille Shah in custody, saying that he could not believe ‘what they [police] did to a special person’.
PTI Chairman @ImranKhanPTI talks about the dedicated worker Shaheed Ali Bilal #ظل_شاہ_کو_انصاف_دو pic.twitter.com/ifJNm4fVgJ
— PTI (@PTIofficial) March 11, 2023
The former prime minister alleged that there were at least 64 marks on Bilal’s body, which he said was indication that torture was inflicted on him.
He also criticised Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, saying that an ‘absconder’ was making the country’s decisions while sitting in London. “The court had declared him a national criminal”, he added.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has announced the election schedule for the general elections in Punjab. “Polling for the election of Punjab provincial assembly will be held on April 30,” the election commission announced.
According to the election schedule, candidates could submit their nomination papers from March 12 to 14, while scrutiny of the papers will be held on March 22.
The candidates could withdraw their nomination papers up to April 05 and election symbols to candidates will be allotted on April 06, the ECP announced.
It is pertinent to mention here that President Dr Arif Alvi announced April 30 as the date for elections in Punjab.