MULTAN: A stampede at a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) political rally in Multan on Friday left at least seven people dead and 42 others injured, hospital and rescue sources said.
The stampede reportedly started as people were leaving from one of the three gates leading out of the stadium, soon after PTI Chairman Imran Khan departed after addressing supporters.
The injured were taken to Nishtar Hospital following the incident.
“A total of seven dead bodies have been brought in and 42 were injured due to a stampede after the PTI procession,” said Parvez Haider, Director of Emergency at Nistar Hospital.
District Coordination Officer Zahid Saleem Gondal told reporters that all the five gates of the stadium were open. He said the PTI had given a written undertaking to manage all matters, including lights, inside the stadium.
He said it all happened when a large number of people tried to cross the gate in one go. In the process several people fell on the ground and were trampled by others.
The DCO said the chief minister had ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Vehicles of Rescue 1122 and fire brigade reached the place soon after the incident and rescue operation was carried out without any delay, he claimed. Water cannon was used to disperse the people for smooth rescue operation.
Speaking to DawnNews, PTI leader Imran Ismail said: “We had not expected so many people would be arriving here for the rally. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other PTI leaders are now at the hospital, and we are hoping the injured get better soon.”
PTI leader Shireen Mazari blamed the police and local administration for the incident.
“We believe it is a total failure of the administration. We saw ourselves how people moved aside as spectators, and the crowd was standing on the seats. This is a very unfortunate incident, and it would not have happened if the police had cooperated,” she told DawnNews.
Mazari claimed that participants of the rally had difficulty leaving the venue as the doors leading out had been locked down by the local administration.
She said a large number of police personnel were present at the venue who could have controlled the situation.
A large number of enraged PTI workers had gathered outside the Nishtar Hospital.
Provincial Minister for Prisons Chaudhry Abdul Waheed Arain was forced out of the hospital by workers, who, chanting “Go Nawaz Go!” said they did not required his help.
Imran expresses grief, urges Shahbaz to probe into incident
Speaking to participants of his party's protest sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk, PTI Chairman Imran Khan expressed deep grief and sorrow over the tragic incident.
He urged Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to order a swift investigation into the incident, which he said happened due to police and local administration’s negligence.
“I condemn the role deputy commissioner Multan played … out of six main gates, only two were opened after the rally,” he said, adding that the gates were under the control of local district administration.
The PTI chairman claimed that policemen deliberately sent too many people up on stage. He also claimed that electricity supply was disrupted before the start of rally in order to impair it.
With no lights, Khan said people were forced to use only two gates and ended up stuck in middle of the stampede subsequently.
He vowed to keep administration of his party’s rallies in the future.
Khan shortened today’s speech to mourn the deaths and announced to continue the sit-in tomorrow (Saturday).
Chief Minister Sharif, meanwhile, expressed deep sorrow over the demise of people in the stampede. He directed the administration to provide best medical facilities to the injured.
Pakistan has been in crisis since August when protesters led by Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri stormed into the federal capital and staged sit-ins in an area of government buildings and foreign embassies.
The protests have since waned, but tonight, the stampede occurred when people tried to leave during Khan’s speech in Multan.
The protest leaders accuse Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of rigging last year's election which brought him back to power in a landslide, a charge he denies.
The confrontation turned violent last month, with thousands trying to storm the PM House in the capital and briefly taking the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) channel off the air.