As PTI Chairman Imran Khan reached a Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Saturday to secure interim bail in three terrorism cases, he told reporters that a “reaction” to the “atrocities done to the PTI” would come from the public today at the party’s Minar-i-Pakistan rally and urged supporters not to back off “under any circumstance”.
Talking to the media outside the court while sitting in his vehicle, Imran said a public “reaction would come today to whatever method they (the government) will use”.
“We will not back off under any circumstance,” the former premier vowed.
He further asserted, “I am saying today, that they (the government) will see the largest rally at Minar-i-Pakistan in the country’s history.”
The PTI chief went on to claim, “1,600 workers of ours have been taken away only because they want to fill our Minar-i-Pakistan rally today.”
Comparing the “current atrocities done to PTI” to those committed in India Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine, Imran castigated the government for “using every method to crush the PTI” and for “torturing and picking up people”.
He further said, “Atrocities are being committed but this is a fight and a jihad for haqeeqi azaadi (real freedom) [so] sacrifices will need to be given. I am also ready for this and my entire team is ready as well.”
Internet outage reported in Lahore prior to Imran’s arrival at Minar-e-Pakistan
Prior to the PTI rally, internet outage was reported in Lahore’s Gulberg, Minar-e-Pakistan, Data Darbar, Lari Adda and nearby areas.
According to footage shared by the PTI, party workers and supporters had packed the venue in anticipation of Imran, who reached Minar-e-Pakistan a little before midnight.
Containers placed in Lahore ahead of PTI rally
Shipping containers have been placed at various locations in Lahore ahead of the PTI’s rally at the Minar-i-Pakistan tonight, where party chairman Imran Khan intends to outline his “vision of Haqeeqi Azadi”.
In what appeared to be an attempt to block routes leading to the PTI’s power show venue, Dawn.com’s correspondent saw containers placed at entry and exit routes of the city, including those from Shahdara to Ravi bridge.
The road heading from Data Darbar towards Minar-i-Pakistan has been closed off from both sides as well.
One of the truck drivers present at the scene told Dawn.com that he had not been compensated in return for using his truck to block the roads.
He further said he was directed by the Shafiqabad police station officials who had told him that it was the “government’s [order]” and that the trucks’ keys were in the possession of the same police.
“When we entered [the city] last night, the police forcibly made us park the vehicles at different locations.”
The driver added that he has been directed to have their trucks block the roads till 12pm tomorrow.
There were also reports that students who were supposed to appear for the Institute of Chartered Accountant exams could not do so due to road blockades.
Hayyan Imran, a student, said he had been sitting on the bus for hours but the bus could not reach the exam venue on time, due to which he got late for his exam.
“Now, the examiners are not letting me go in. They’re saying that I have arrived late and the attendance has been taken,” he lamented.
Earlier today, the former premier called on his supporters to “assert their right as people of a free nation” by attending the rally.
He added that the PTI would be holding its sixth public gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan, which he felt would “break all records”.
“My heart tells me it will break all records. I am inviting everyone in Lahore to attend after Tarawih prayers. I will give my vision of Haqeeqi Azadi and how we will pull Pakistan out of the mess cabal of crooks have put our country in,” Imran said.
While expressing concerns that the government may erect obstacles to prevent party supporters from reaching the venue, Imran asserted that it was the fundamental right of the people to participate in a political gathering.
“Everyone must assert their right as people of a free nation that won its independence and come to Minar-i-Pakistan,” he told his supporters.
According to PTI’s official Twitter account, the rally will begin after Taraveeh prayers at 9pm.
Punjab police issue threat alert on Imran’s life
Meanwhile, Punjab police issued a threat alert on Saturday evening, warning that “Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIA)” were planning to destabilise the country by targeting PTI and their gatherings.
The alert — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — issued by the CCPO Lahore’s intelligence branch states that “credible information” was received that HIAs were trying to capitalise on the “prevailing political polarisation, and law and order situation by targeting the leadership and gathering of PTI to destablise the country by creating a chaotic situation”.
It added that foreign intelligence agencies contacted Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) commander Mukarram Khurasani to “cause instability in the country by whatever means”.
The threat alert further predicted that the JuA commander “could have specifically assigned” Imran Khan as the top target.
Other targets include people gathered at the PTI chairman’s residence at Zaman Park, PTI’s gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan later tonight, and also rallies carried out by the PTI “as they would appear to be a softer target”, it added.
The threat alert warned that the terrorists might use the uniforms or vehicle of the police or any law enforcement agency “as a deception ploy to hit their targets”.
“Other vulnerabilities that the miscreants can exploit include the unregulated crowd in the political events and movement of political workers from North, especially from tribal districts of KP,” it stated.
It concluded that the information was “credible and corroborated by different sources”, advising to “exercise extreme vigilance and enhance the security of PTI political leaders to avoid any untoward incident”.
Imran had on March 13 announced a rally at the Minar-i-Pakistan — the same venue where he launched his campaign for the 2013 elections with a massive show of power — would take place on March 19 but the Lahore High Court had directed the PTI to reschedule its rally and have a dialogue with the administration.
Subsequently, the LHC had on March 22 disposed of a petition of the PTI seeking permission to hold a public rally at the venue after the party and the city administration reached an agreement.
Lahore PTI president Imtiaz Mahmood, the petitioner, had submitted his affidavit accepting the terms and conditions along with his undertaking that the rally at the venue will start on March 25 (today) at 10pm and will end around March 26 at 3am. The DC and the CCPO accepted the affidavit and the undertaking filed by the petitioner.
The PTI chief kicked off his election campaign from Lahore at the end of the second week of March following wrangling with the interim government of Punjab over a ban imposed by local administration on public gatherings.
The rally was originally scheduled for March 11 and March 12 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 March 12, the administration had allowed the PTI to take out the public rally on Monday (March 13) 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”.
ATC grants Imran bail in 3 cases
Earlier in the day, the Lahore ATC granted Imran interim bail till April 4 in three cases filed at the Lahore Race Course police station — two of which were on March 14 and March 15 — relating to the clashes that took place between PTI supporters and the police outside the PTI chief’s Zaman Park residence.
ATC judge Ejaz Ahmad Buttar heard the plea today while Barrister Salman Safdar appeared in the court as Imran’s counsel.
During today’s hearing, Imran said, “I want to be included in the investigation. There is a risk of [my] arrest.” He also filed a separate plea seeking permission for his car to be allowed within the court premises.
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