KARACHI: Amid a police ‘crackdown’ and detention of over 50 workers who were allegedly released after signing ‘affidavits’, and denial of permission to hold a rally in the metropolis, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf announced on Saturday that it was forced to cancel its demonstration scheduled for Sunday in order to protect participants from any harsh reaction from law enforcement agencies.

The rally was the first major political activity in Karachi announced by the party since May 9 incidents.

“In a regrettable turn of events the party is left with no option, but to review its decision,” a statement issued by the party said.

The PTI Karachi chapter president, Khurrum Sher Zaman, said the rally was cancelled because the caretaker government of Sindh rejected their request for grant of permission to stage the rally.

Workers were picked up and forced to sign affidavits to change their allegiance, alleges Khurram Sher Zaman

Speaking to Dawn, he alleged that more than 50 PTI workers were picked up from different parts of the city during the last couple of days and they were released only after signing affidavits.

“They were forced to sign that from now on they would not take part in any PTI activity,” he said.

“They are all educated and talented youngsters who hail from respectable families. They are only exercising their democratic and constitutional right, but they are being harassed. Their families are being pressurised. This is a sheer injustice.”

He said a few days ago eight PTI workers were recovered from the Sharea Faisal police station during a magistrate’s raid after the PTI approached the court.

“The situation has not changed. Every day we hear about our workers and their illegal detention. This must come to an end,” added Mr Zaman.

In the statement, the PTI said: “The decision to call off the rally is made with great disappointment, considering the importance of public engagement in the democratic process. PTI Karachi remains committed to its democratic values and principles. The PTI respects the need for a secure environment during election campaigns. However, the denial of permission without valid reasons raises concerns about the neutrality of the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The PTI Karachi chapter president, who’s secured pre-arrest bail in a case pertaining to May 9 riots last month and remained in hiding, vowed that the party would work ‘tirelessly’ to address these concerns and will announce a new date for the rally.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2023

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