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

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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.

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.”