• TLP protesters sustain injuries as police resort to tear gas and baton charge
• PTI and JI stage a big protest outside ECP office
• JI terms ‘manipulated’ results an ‘insult’ to public opinion

 (Clockwise from top left) PTI protesters at a demonstration organised by their party and Jamaat-i-Islami; police in riot gear stand alert outside the office of the provincial election commissioner; and, law enforcers pick up activists of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan near Numaish traffic intersection, on Saturday.—AFP / PPI
(Clockwise from top left) PTI protesters at a demonstration organised by their party and Jamaat-i-Islami; police in riot gear stand alert outside the office of the provincial election commissioner; and, law enforcers pick up activists of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan near Numaish traffic intersection, on Saturday.—AFP / PPI

KARACHI: Protests against ‘flawed and rigged’ election results intensified on Saturday when law enforcers fired tear gas at protesters and baton-charged them in the metropolis.

A large number of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers sustained injuries in the baton charge while many were briefly detained by police from the Numaish intersection and Nishtar Park.

After the police action, the dispersed TLP protesters joined another demonstration being staged by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) outside the office of the provincial election commission.

The PTI and JI were also protesting over the alleged rigging in the polls.

Soldier Bazar police SHO Shahzad Ilyas said that the TLP workers tried to gather at the busy intersection of Numaish Chowrangi on main M.A. Jinnah Road near the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam. The law enforcers did not allow them to gather there. The protesters were forcefully removed from the M.A. Jinnah road.

However, the TLP workers staged a sit-in at Nishtar Park in Soldier Bazaar.

The SHO admitted that the police also removed them from there and resorted to ‘light’ baton charge and used tear gas to disperse them.

The TLP spokesperson Rehan Khan claimed that around 40 workers were detained and beaten.

The SHO said that around 17-18 activists were taken into custody, who were later released after talks without registration of any case.

The TLP spokesperson also said that the workers had been released.

TLP leader Mufti Mohammed Qasim Fakhri claimed that the administration, by not allowing them to stage a protest, wanted to create a law and order problem in the metropolis.

He said the police resorted to tear gas shelling and baton-charged the protest participants and arrested them to foil their peaceful protest against alleged electoral rigging in Karachi.

PTI, Jamaat, TLP protesters unite

The protest outside the ECP Sindh headquarters that started in the afternoon and continued till the sunset showed a rare unity among three parties — the PTI, JI and TLP.

The participants in the three parties joint protest agreed that the ECP had failed to perform its legal duty and accused the caretaker administration of ‘supporting’ the ‘forces of evil’ in the general elections.

The JI and PTI called off the protest at sunset. But the TLP continued to stage the sit-in demanding release of its detained workers.

Allegations of ‘historic rigging’

It all started with JI workers reaching the ECP Sindh office from different parts the city in rallies over the party’s call to protest against “the historic rigging in the general elections”.

Within a few minutes a large number of PTI workers also joined the protest led by party independent candidates from different Karachi constituencies who lost the elections after the announcement of ‘controversial and manipulated’ results by the ECP.

Addressing the sit-in, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rahman vowed to expand the scope of the protest across the city.

Describing the Feb 8 polls as a “massacre of Karachi mandate”, he warned the ECP and authorities to fix the flaws and respect the people’s opinion.

“The mandate of masses across the country has been insulted on February 8,” he said.

“Karachiites have rejected the forces of chaos, targeted killers, extortionists, criminals and murderers of around 260 factory workers in Baldia Town. But these elements grown in the nurseries of establishment are being imposed on the city. Let me be very clear, Karachi will not accept target killers any more as it cannot afford the era of bloodshed and hate once again.”

The PTI-backed candidates, Alamgir Khan, Aftab Jehangir and Barrister Abdul Jaleel also addressed the protest and asked the people to come out of their homes and raise voice against the ‘insult’ to their vote and mandate.

Mr Jehangir said that those who had been declared winners in these polls were so embarrassed that they would not be able to face the people of Karachi and any government which came to power after the controversial elections would not sustain. “The Election Commission will have to explain as to what’s its utility when the mandate of people is stolen and their representatives aren’t elected but installed through defiance of law,” he added.

Barrister Jaleel claimed on 12 seats of National Assembly in Karachi, the PTI-backed independent candidates had bagged more than 100,000 votes and on seven seats they got more than 60,000 votes to emerge as victorious, but their results were ‘changed’ in Returning Officers offices.

“Those who have stolen the mandate haven’t only insulted the people of Karachi, but also stolen the dreams of our children,” he said.

“I wonder how they would face their children at homes. We are not healing the wounds of this country. We are just deepening them.”

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

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