MULTAN: An impressive public meeting by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf at Qasim Bagh stadium here on Friday evening turned into a tragedy the moment it ended as a stampede at one of the exits left seven people dead and 43 injured.

The stampede began when PTI Chairman Imran Khan left the venue after addressing the gathering.

Nishtar Hospital officials said they had received seven bodies and 43 injured. The condition of two of the injured was stated to be critical. The head of the hospital’s emergency ward said the deaths were caused by suffocation.

Imran Khan expressed grief over the deaths and urged Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to order an investigation to fix responsibility.

Addressing the participants of his party’s sit-in in Islamabad at night (after returning from Multan), he blamed police and the local administration for the stampede and loss of lives. He alleged that most of the gates were kept locked and lights switched off early.


Stampede at one exit leaves seven dead, 43 injured


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.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi held the district administration responsible and claimed that he had reports from police circles that something untoward might happen. “The proof of poor arrangements is that Imran Khan and I reached the stage by climbing a pole,” he said.

PTI’s district president Ejaz Janjua, who was supervising the arrangements, could not be contacted as his mobile phone was switched off.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed, who also addressed the meeting, told a TV channel that the arrangements made by the PTI’s local organisers were poor.

APPEAL TO MODI:

Earlier addressing the gathering, Imran Khan urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use his mandate to resolve the issue of Kashmir so that the money being spent on weapons could be used for the welfare of the people of both countries.

“Modi threatened Pakistan, but Nawaz Sharif did not respond because his son is doing business in India and Nawaz gives precedence to his interest over the country’s,” he said.

He asked the Indian prime minister to behave like a statesman, instead of showing muscles on the Sialkot border. “You should withdraw 700,000 Indian troops deployed in Kashmir. The money being spent on weapons should be utilised to eliminate poverty in both the countries as majority of the people in the Sub-continent are poor,” he added.

Mr Khan said that 110 million people in Pakistan were living below the poverty line.

He said Nawaz Sharif remained silent on drone attacks. “Nawaz had expressed concern over drone attacks before the elections, but now he has no courage to tell the Americans that these are human rights violation.”

The PTI chief said new provinces should be created on administrative grounds to facilitate people. “The people of south Punjab are being deprived of their due share in resources because all the resources are being spent in Lahore.”

He called for constituting a commission to create new provinces on administrative grounds.

He said farmers and small businessmen were being deprived of subsidy, adding that poverty could be eliminated only by facilitating small farmers and businessmen.

Mr Khan said he would break the partnership between Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari which had enabled them to rule the nation by rotation.

“I will hold my next public meeting in Sargodha; however I am waiting for Nov 21 to address people in Larkana,” he said, adding that Mr Zardari and the PPP believed that Sindh was their property.

Published in Dawn, October 11th , 2014

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