LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), central Punjab chapter, had to cancel its workers’ convention scheduled for Sunday, citing purported threats of a brutal police action against workers.

The PTI has been encountering obstacles in obtaining permission for holding workers’ conventions, facing denial on various pretexts.

In the latest episode, PTI central Punjab senior vice-president Akmal Khan Bari announced cancellation of the party workers’ Nov 19 convention in Shahdra, saying that Lahore Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rafia Haider did not grant permission and when he approached the DIG (operations), he received warning from the police officer that that PTI leaders and workers would face arrest if the convention proceeded.

Mr Bari stated that he had submitted an application with the DC to seek permission for the convention but was denied. He approached the Lahore High Court, which directed the DC to grant permission. Despite the court directives, the DC did not grant permission.

The LHC called her through a contempt notice. The DC office eventually agreed to grant permission. However, he said, no NOC was granted until Nov 18. He stated the DC asked him to approach the DIG (operations).

Mr Bari alleged the DIG too asked us not to hold the convention.

“As we argued that it was our constitutional right to contest elections and hold workers’ conventions, public meetings and rallies, the DIG replied that he had been instructed from higher offices not to allow the PTI to hold workers’ convention otherwise he would be compelled to arrest us”.

Eventually, he said, he had to postpone the Nov 19 workers’ convention. He thanked all the party workers across the country for their support.

Addressing the “illegal” government and Mian brothers, Mr Bari in a video message said the election results had come before Feb 8 as party chairman Imran Khan was getting support of at least 80 per cent of voters from across the country. “The seeds you have sown, you will be made to reap the crop,” he commented.

Mr Bari urged the party workers not to be afraid, even if this caretaker government did not allow the PTI to hold public meetings and rallies. He said the incumbent caretaker governments were afraid of Imran Khan’s popularity.

Caretaker Punjab government spokesman and information minister Amir Mir is avoiding to address the matter of discrimination being meted out to the PTI leaders and workers for holding workers conventions and canvassing for the run-up of Feb 8 general elections.

DC Haider also did not reply to a question along with Mr Bari’s video message, sent on her WhatsApp.

In a bold move, PTI workers, led by party leader Malik Shahzaib Khokhar, staged a motorcycle rally on College Road, Township. The party workers were carrying party flags.

“We’ve overpowered the fear and will not surrender our right to hold the party’s political activities to canvas and urge masses to vote for the party candidates in the Feb 8 elections,” a PTI rally participant told Dawn.

In recent months, PTI leaders have tried in Lahore and other cities of the province as well as across the country to seek formal permissions to hold workers conventions and corner meetings but were blatantly denied.

The civil administration also pounced on the party leaders and workers’ offices and residence, where they tried to hold conventions. The police had raided a planned Oct 22 workers convention in the NA-123 constituency in Lahore as well as a raid at PTI Gujranwala offices on Nov 10.

The police had also raided and ransacked PTI central Punjab’s Lahore offices on Oct 27, where the party leaders had announced to hold a press conference.

The PTI leaders say the caretaker government has raided workers’ residences and arrest them or their relatives when they try to hold a public activity.

They said the PTI workers and people of Pakistan would take revenge with the power of their votes in Feb 8 general elections.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2023

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