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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) plans to wind up its election campaign on July 23 with a public meeting at Islamabad’s famous D-Chowk where the party had staged its 126-day sit-in in the year 2014 against alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.

The party has formally sought permission from the local administration of Islamabad for holding of the public meeting through an application written to the deputy commissioner by PTI’s Senator Faisal Javed on Wednesday.

In his application, Mr Javed has informed the administration that party chairman Imran Khan with a “large number” of senior party leaders and members would address the public meeting to mark the ending of the electioneering on the midnight of July 23 and 24.

It was in August 2014 that the PTI chief Imran Khan started a long march from Lahore to Islamabad to stage a sit-in to register the party’s protest against the alleged rigging in the 2013 elections. The PTI’s protest march was also joined by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by Dr Tahirul Qadri.

The party has formally sought permission from the local administration to hold the public meeting

After reaching Islamabad, the protesters announced that they would remain at D-Chowk for an indefinite period till the acceptance of their demands. The sit-in that had been started with a demand of probe into the charges of rigging allegations was later converted into a full-fledged anti-government movement and the PTI announced that they would not end the sit-in till the ouster of the PML-N government.

A number of interesting tense events took place during the period the PTI and PAT workers remained at D-Chowk. Dr Qadri had ended his protest after reaching an understanding with the government, but Mr Khan’s party had continued.

The sit-in continued for 126 days and the PTI chief announced wrapping up the protest a day after the terrorists’ attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which more than 140 people, including 132 school kids, were martyred.

Mr Khan in his speeches always takes pride for holding the “longest” sit-in and praises the party workers for their commitment with him and the party and it is in this context that he has selected the venue for ending the election campaign for the upcoming general elections.

Under Section 182 of the Elections Act 2017, the candidates and the parties are required to end electioneering 48 hours prior to the polling.

The law under the title “Prohibition of public meetings during certain period” reads as “No person shall convene, hold or attend any public meeting, or promote or join in any procession, within the area of a constituency or, in the case of the Senate election, a Province, during a period of forty-eight hours ending at midnight following the conclusion of the poll for any election in that constituency or province.”

A senior PTI leader and office-bearer, when contacted, said it would be too early for him to speak on the matter as the party was yet to finalise the strategy and the arrangements for the July 23 public meeting. He said that since the candidate would be busy in their respective constituencies all over the country, therefore, it might not be possible for most of them to come to Islamabad on the last day of the electioneering.

Most probably, he said, the party candidates from Rawalpindi and Islamabad and other nearby areas were expected to attend the public meeting.

It may be recalled that the PTI had already postponed a workers convention which was to be addressed by party chairman Imran Khan in Islamabad on Wednesday to mark start of his election campaign in the federal capital. The event had to be postponed due to non-availability of Jinnah Convention Centre, according to a PTI spokesman.

Mr Khan, who formally launched his party’s election campaign with a public meeting in his native Mianwali city on Sunday, is contesting the election from five constituencies – two in Punjab, and one each in Islamabad, Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi in Sindh.

The PTI chief is scheduled to arrive in Lahore on Thursday (today) where he will stay for next two days. Mr Khan is contesting the election against former minister for railways Khawaja Saad Rafique from NA-131.

On July 1, the PTI chairman will visit Bannu and Razmak in Khyber Pakht­unkhwa. In this constituency, he will be facing former KP chief minister Akram Khan Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2018