KARACHI: Police stop PTI supporters from holding a rally near the Teen Talwar monument at Clifton on Sunday.—Shakil Adil-White Star / PPI
KARACHI: Police stop PTI supporters from holding a rally near the Teen Talwar monument at Clifton on Sunday.—Shakil Adil-White Star / PPI

• Pledges direct election of prime minister, reduction of NA tenure from five to four years
• Promises equality, ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ and a wider tax base
• Mian Azhar briefly held, dozens picked up in several cities; blast near Bannu candidate’s home

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: PTI witnessed an eventful day on Sunday with its candidates and supporters taking to the streets across the country on the call of incarcerated leader Imran Khan facing police crackdown in several places and its main leadership unveiling the election manifesto promising radical constitutional reforms and a society where both the rich and the poor are treated equally by the law.

In its manifesto unveiled only ten days before general elections on February 8, PTI pledged a set of legislative reforms, including constitutional amendments for direct election of prime minister, reducing the tenure of National Assembly to four years and Senate’s to five years.

As the party’s central leaders unveiled the manifesto at a news conference in Islamabad, police launched a crackdown on PTI’s rallies in many cities, and arrested dozens of party workers and leaders.

In its manifesto, PTI has also pledged the establishment of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Com­mission’ to identify and address “blunders” made in history.

Addressing the news conference, PTI leader Gohar Khan said if voted to power his party would introduce a number of constitutional amendments to revamp the process of PM’s election and shorten the tenure of both houses of parliament.

“The prime minister will be directly elected by voters, rather than by the members of the National Assembly,” Mr Khan said, adding that 50 per cent of the Senate members will be elected directly and the other 50pc indirectly.

The Senate’s tenure will be five years and that of the National Assembly would be shortened from five to four years, he added.

“Laws will be amended and judicial and legal reforms will be introduced,” he pledged.

He vowed to implement Imran Khan’s vision of ‘Riyasat-i-Madina’ in which both the rich and the poor would be treated equally by the law.

He said the document’s title is ‘Shandaar Pakistan, Shandaar Mustaqbil aur Kharaab Maazi Sey Chutkara’.

He said that PTI would address economic issues and added that only a stable government could fix the economy. PTI will give a five-year plan in one go and bring more people into the tax net rather than putting more burden on existing taxpayers.

“We will reduce expenses and increase income. Privatisation [of government institutions] will be carried out, along with an austerity plan,” said Mr Khan.

He added that since 70pc of the population is related to agriculture, PTI would give special attention to this sector. The manifesto also pledges to increase the share of renewables in the energy generation and introduce health cards again.

The PTI chairman added that there would be special focus on education and the sector would be reformed to create a link between the education system and job market. PTI will also take measures for population control and spend three per cent of the GDP on social sectors as compared to current spending of 1pc. He vowed to improve infrastructure and the communication systems and eliminate corruption.

On the foreign policy front, Mr Khan said PTI’s manifesto pledges cordial relations with other countries, especially with neighbouring countries.

“The principle of foreign policy will be ‘Pakistan First’,” he added.

Level playing field

During the press conference, the PTI chairman was accompanied by spokesperson Raoof Hasan, Head of Central Media Department Sibghatullah Virk and Head of Electronic Media Rizwan Ahmed.

However, Mr Khan lamented that most party leaders who worked on the 168-page manifesto for the last six months could not attend the event due to the prevailing situation. “One can analyse what kind of efforts are being made to keep the PTI out of the electoral process.”

The PTI chairman said Imran Khan gave a call for countrywide demonstrations and peaceful rallies but they were not allowed.

Police crackdown

 KARACHI: A policeman fires a teargas shell to disperse them, on Sunday.—Shakil Adil-White Star / PPI
KARACHI: A policeman fires a teargas shell to disperse them, on Sunday.—Shakil Adil-White Star / PPI

In Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and other cities, PTI workers came face to face with the police as they took out rallies and processions on the call of Imran Khan.

The police clashed with PTI workers in Lahore, Bahawalpur, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Faisalabad, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Lodhran, and Kasur.

Police also arrested dozens of PTI workers and candidates in the overnight crackdown.

PTI octogenarian candidate for NA-129 Mian Muhammad Azhar was also taken into custody only to be released after a few hours.

In Ahmedpur East town, the police forcibly dispersed a rally led by PTI candidate Kanwal Shozeb.

In the ensuing game of cat and mouse, PTI workers toyed with the police and dispersed in nearby streets.

Some candidates successfully conducted their planned events in rural areas with sparse police presence.

In Karachi, over 20 PTI workers were arrested after clashing with the police at the Teen Talwar monument.

According to the police, the party didn’t have an NOC to hold a rally in the so-called Red Zone. Meanwhile, PTI claimed to have ‘informed’ the district administration about their gathering and said that other parties were holding rallies on the sites of their choice, but PTI was being deprived of this constitutional right.

The police also tortured reporters and camera persons covering the rally and snatched their cameras.

In Peshawar and other parts of KP, PTI workers came out in sizable numbers despite a police crackdown. They were baton-charged by the police at Kabooter Chowk on Ring Road in the provincial capital. PTI Peshawar district president Sher Ali Arbab told Dawn that scores of workers have been detained by police in Peshawar.

Rallies were also held in Dir, Dera Ismail Khan, Bajaur, Khyber, Mansehra and other districts of KP.

Bomb explosion

In Bannu, two people were injured in an explosion outside the residence of a PTI-backed candidate.

A motorcycle-borne improvised explosive device was placed outside the house of PTI’s candidate for PK-101 Malik Shah Muhammad Khan, which went off with a big bang, DSP Imran Aslam told Dawn. He said the former provincial minister was not present at his residence at the time of the blast.

“The former minister’s son was in the hujra (guestroom) when the explosion occurred, but he remained safe,” he maintained.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore and Ghulam Mursaleen in Lakki Marwat also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2024


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