KARACHI: The National Assembly constituency in Azizabad (NA-246) on Tuesday became a battleground for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement when a PTI delegation led by its candidate came under an attack at the Jinnah Ground, planned to be the venue for the April 19 PTI rally.

The MQM later alleged that the banners of party chief Altaf Hussain were torn up and a ‘martyrs memorial’ was desecrated.

While a case against unknown and unspecified number of MQM workers had been lodged on a complaint of a Karachi PTI leader, tensions were running high between the two rival parties, as PTI lawmaker Arif Alvi declared in the evening that his party would go to the Jinnah Ground with full force on Wednesday.

The by-election on NA-246 is scheduled to be held on April 23. As part of their election campaign, PTI candidate Imran Ismail on Tuesday submitted an application before the deputy commissioner of the Karachi’s central district seeking permission to hold a public meeting at the Jinnah Ground on April 19.

After submitting the application, Mr Ismail, along with party workers, reached the Azizabad area where MQM’s Nine Zero headquarters is located in a convoy to inspect the venue of the rally. TV reporters with digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) vans also accompanied the PTI convoy.

They entered the Jinnah Ground, where youths and children were playing cricket, and remained there for some time. When they were on their way back, some PTI workers shouted slogans. By the time, some MQM workers gathered at the Jinnah Ground and they also chanted slogans against the PTI leadership.

The situation turned violent when MQM workers pelted the vehicles of PTI’s convoy with stones and smashed the windowpanes and back screen of Mr Ismail’s jeep.

While PTI leaders were speeding away their vehicles, a TV footage showed charged men, including minor boys, kicking the vehicles and pelting them with stones.

Police authorities suspended the SHO of the Azizabad police station for showing negligence in his duty.

Later, Mr Ismail told a press conference at the Karachi Press Club that “rogue” MQM workers had attacked him, damaged his vehicles and injured PTI workers. He vowed to defeat the MQM in the by-election and said that such acts would not deter the resolve of his party workers.

He defended his party’s decision to hold a rally at the Jinnah Ground and said that the PTI did not afraid of the MQM.

In a tit-for-tat response, MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said that the whole media witnessed that the PTI candidate came to Azizabad, entered the Jinnah Ground and played cricket with children.

“However, rogue elements accompanying him desecrated the MQM’s Yadgar-i-Shauhda-i-Haq (martyrs monument in the Jinnah Ground), torn up party’s posters and banners and hurled abuses against Altaf Hussain. This act angered the area people,” he added.

He said that there were 20 grounds in the NA-246 constituency and the PTI would not be allowed to hold a rally in the Jinnah Ground since it failed to control its workers.

FIRs lodged

The Azizabad police registered a case against MQM workers on a complaint of PTI leader Azizullah Khan Afridi.

The FIR (96/2015) was lodged under Section 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of a common object), 427 (mischief causing damage and smashing vehicles) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Later in the evening, Mr Ismail gave a statement to police that he was attacked at the behest of MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

MQM lawmaker Sufyan Yousuf also lodged a counter FIR against PTI leaders and workers with the Azizabad police station.

He took the plea that Mr Ismail, along with other PTI leaders, came to the Jinnah Ground at the behest of party chief Imran Khan and MNA Arif Alvi, torn up MQM banners, desecrated the martyrs’ monument and tortured area people when they tried to stop them.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2015

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