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PTI’s protest spoiled as ‘workers’ clash with newsmen

Updated August 27, 2013

LAHORE, Aug 26: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab’s protest against alleged rigging and police action against party workers at Faisal Chowk was marred by a controversy after several cameramen and reporters were thrashed by ‘party workers’.

The PTI initially said it was a conspiracy to sabotage party’s peaceful protest. A party leader alleged that some hidden hands took action against journalists who were highlighting PTI’s concerns.

The waves of violent act against journalists reached the Punjab Assembly Press Gallery, where journalists announced boycott and law minister Rana Sanaullah immediately expressed solidarity and requested adjournment of the session. The speaker adjourned the session till Tuesday morning.PTI workers led by provincial president Ejaz Chaudhry began their protest at Faisal Chowk in front of Punjab Assembly at around 3pm against alleged rigging in the by-election in the PP-150 constituency. PTI MPAs were supposed to join the protest after boycotting the session over rigging.

At around 5pm, some young men armed with clubs and iron rods thrashed journalists, including a private TV channel’s cameraman who suffered an eye injury. A large number of journalists gathered there and condemned the action. Journalists accused PTI leaders and workers of torture on their colleagues. Some of them also stopped coverage of the PTI protest.

A number of journalists told Dawn that PTI’s youth equipped with clubs and iron bars attacked TV cameramen and injured many of them. A Capital TV cameraman sustained eye injuries and was taken to Services Hospital for treatment. Journalists covering the protest raised slogans against the PTI leadership and accused party workers of mistreating them.

Later, PTI leaders, including Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry and Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, apologised to journalists. Expressing solidarity with them, the party leaders said they would conduct an inquiry into the incident and cancel the party membership of those linked to it. Chaudhry said he visited the injured journalist in the hospital and assured him of action against his tormentors.

Later, Rasheed and Insaf Students Federation information secretary Waqas Iftikhar Butt and Hafiz Farhat Abbas visited the injured journalists at the Services Hospital and assured them that the party would take action against those who attacked them. Rasheed said party’s top leadership had already ordered an inquiry into the incident. He praised media’s role in highlighting his party’s concerns about rigging in the by-election and police highhandedness against party leaders and workers.

Earlier, speaking at the hunger strike camp Chaudhry said the Election Commission of Pakistan had taken notice of PTI’s complaints about rigging in the by-election in PP-150. He said he hoped the ECP would order recount of votes and take right decision.

Chaudhry said the PTI was protesting against rigging in the May 11 general election and Aug 22 by-election. He said the PTI wanted the wrongdoings rectified. He said the PTI would continue protesting peacefully against rigging and other wrongs committed against party leaders and workers.

PTI leaders Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Farrukh Javed Moon, Shoaib Siddiqui and Hamid Meraj said the party had issued a White Paper, giving evidence of rigging in the May 11 general election all over the country. They said the PTI had applied for recount of votes in four National Assembly constituencies, but the application was being ignored.

In the by-election, they said PTI candidate Mahr Wajid Azeem was winning with a clear margin, but he was declared loser. PTI leaders demanded that the rigging must be rectified and those involved should be punished according to the law.

PUNJAB ASSEMBLY: The Punjab Assembly session on Monday began some two hours behind the schedule at 5pm. The opposition members strongly condemned the police action against PTI leaders and workers on Saturday and demanded that law minister Rana Sanaullah should apologise and take action police officials if they took this drastic action on their own.

Opposition leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed also sought speaker’s permission to present an out of turn privilege motion against police action on PTI workers during a protest demonstration on Saturday. Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan said the matter had already been referred to an assembly committee.

Later, law minister Rana Sanaullah said an inquiry into Saturday’s incident would be conducted. He said the police action was not taken on government’s instructions and it was the decision of on-duty officers to stop protest on The Mall.