PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Monday announced a power show at Minar-i-Pakistan on March 19 as the party’s twice-delayed election rally was finally taken out peacefully.
The rally was originally scheduled for Saturday and then Sunday but was postponed after the party failed to get relief either from the Election Commission or the Lahore High Court against the caretaker Punjab government’s order of imposing Section 144 in the provincial capital.
The interim Punjab government had imposed Section 144 citing a Pakistan Super League match in the Qaddafi Stadium and a marathon race in the city. However, in a notification on Sunday, the administration had allowed the PTI to take out the public rally on Monday (today) but mentioned that it would carry “high-security risk due to the general and specific threats against political gatherings and previous instance of attack on the ex-prime minister”.
The permission was given after an undertaking by the organiser to the “effect that in case of any untoward incident he shall be held responsible”. The notification had also barred speeches against the constitutional offices, including the military and judiciary.
The election rally kicked off from Zaman Park today with Imran leading it in a bulletproof vehicle.
Reaching Data Darbar, Imran addressed the rally from inside his vehicle, thanked PTI workers and supporters for their participation and announced Sunday’s Minar-i-Pakistan power show set for 2pm.
“This rally will be in the day and it will be my sixth in Minar-i-Pakistan in the last 12 years,” he added.
Imran said he would address the rally and explain how to take the country out of its current issues. He called on the people of Lahore to start preparing for the power show.
“It is clear from today’s rally why this imported government did not allow our [previous] rally,” he said, referring to the PTI’s March 8 plans.
Imran also paid tribute to PTI worker Ali Bilal, also known as Zille Shah, who lost his life on March 8 as the caretaker Punjab government used force to block a rally called to launch the party’s campaign for the April 30 elections in the province.
“I’m sending a message on my nation’s behalf to those people [behind his death] that I and the nation will never forget this or forgive you. Until those police officials and those who tortured him are not brought to justice, [we will not rest] and will get them sentenced.”
The PTI chief said he was not striving for his personal sake but for the people. He alleged that the “big criminals” in power were attempting to run away from the elections and registering cases against him and PTI officeholders to “somehow disqualify us from elections”.
He also addressed the recent public release of the Toshakhana gift records and said it was now made clear “who was actually looting the Toshakhana”.
Videos shared by the PTI showed people thronging Imran’s vehicle and showering it with petals.
The rally thereafter turned back for and returned to Imran’s Zaman Park residence.
Once he reached home, Imran took to Twitter criticising the government. “The level of fascism today is reaching new levels of oppression, such is the fear within the corridors of power of PTI & its public support,” he tweeted.
He added that “apart from repeatedly denying us permission and obstructing our rally, a cabal of crooks keeps adding sham case after case against us to keep us busy running from one court to another”.
Imran said media houses were forced to deny PTI any coverage and those channels that provide coverage were raided. “But none of this matters as Lahore showed today where people kept coming out in increasing numbers & walked in the rally for almost seven hrs.”
Meanwhile, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said the Sunday power show would “shatter all [attendance] records” of the party’s past rallies at Minar-i-Pakistan.
Large number of supporters
Earlier videos showed a large number of supporters and workers on the streets as the rally moved toward its destination.
A number of PTI leaders — especially from Punjab — along with their supporters were a part of the rally.
Remarking on the rally’s strength, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said: “Watch the scenes of the rally in Lahore at this time and understand that stopping Imran Khan is like inviting people’s wrath.”
Talking to the media before the rally kicked off, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “I will say to the administration we have to remain peaceful, have remained peaceful and don’t want chaos. We have no intention of destroying the peace and this is not our party’s thinking or plan of action.”
He requested the administration to “cease putting up obstacles” for the rally along its route. Qureshi said the PTI chairman would address the rally at its conclusion, saying that an “important announcement” would be made in it.
He said the rally would kick off from Zaman Park, move towards Data Darbar and conclude back at the PTI chief’s Lahore residence.
ECP writes to Punjab govt on Section 144
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan considered the PTI’s request regarding its Lahore rally and Section 144’s imposition and decided to summon a report from the Punjab government.
It said a letter was issued to the chief secretary saying that the commission was bound to conduct transparent and peaceful elections under the Constitution. Thus, a comprehensive report should be submitted to the electoral body by Tuesday after considering the PTI’s request so that further plan of action could be considered, it added.
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