LADY police officers attempt to pull a woman out of her car during PTI’s protest against alleged election rigging outside its secretariat on Jail Road, on Saturday.—Murtaza Ali / White Star
LADY police officers attempt to pull a woman out of her car during PTI’s protest against alleged election rigging outside its secretariat on Jail Road, on Saturday.—Murtaza Ali / White Star

LAHORE: PTI workers and police faced off in multiple cities on Saturday during protests against alleged rigging in the Feb 8 general elections.

In Lahore, PTI supporters had gathered outside the Lahore Press Club and the party’s Jail Road office to register their protest.

The protesters chanted slogans, demanding the restoration of their “stolen mandate”. They called for rectified results based on the vote count as per Form 45, prepared at polling stations under the watch of political parties’ polling agents.

PTI-backed candidate for NA-128, Salman Akram Raja, was arrested and taken to Racecourse Police Station. He was released later in the day.

Elderly men, women among those taken into custody; demonstrators in several cities want ‘stolen’ mandate restored

Video clips posted on social media showed policemen dragging the lawyer as he participated in the protest outside PTI’s office on Jail Road.

Ali Ijaz Buttar, another PTI candidate, was also arrested, along with elderly men, women and a child.

In many cities of Punjab, police arrived at the protest site even before the demonstrators had gathered and arrested several party leaders, candidates, workers and supporters. They dragged elderly men and women. PTI workers and supporters, who had gathered on the call of party founder Imran Khan, chanted slogans and demanded the restoration of their “stolen” mandate.

PTI Central Punjab general secretary Hammad Azhar, who didn’t participate in any protest, posted videos on his official X account of demonstrations in Malakwal, Jhelum, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, and other cities.

He instructed the party’s ticket-holders to organise protests in their respective areas and march towards Lahore Press Club and PTI’s Jail Road office.

“If police stop protesters, stay peaceful and stage a sit-in there,” he wrote in a post on X.

Protests in Karachi, Peshawar

In Karachi, hundreds of PTI workers and supporters gathered outside the Election Commission of Pakistan’s Sindh office in the city’s Saddar area.

The protesters chanted slogans against the alleged rigging and demanded the judiciary and state institutions to intervene and fix the “flaws” in the results.

The charged crowd, including women and children, carried party flags and danced to the tunes of party songs.

They claimed that the mandate of Karachi was “stolen” on Feb 8 and that it could lead to “disastrous repercussions”, like damaging the democracy and affecting the parliamentary system.

The party’s Sindh chapter president, Haleem Adil Sheikh, and other senior leaders addressed the demonstration and vowed to keep raising their voices against the “rigged” elections“.

Any move to harass PTI leaders and supporters will not stop them from exercising their democratic right to protest, the speakers vowed.

In Peshawar and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI workers, including the newly elected lawmakers, staged rallies.

The rally in the provincial capital was addressed by PTI provincial president and chief minister-designate Ali Amin Gandapur and other leaders.

In his speech, Mr Gandapur said his party would not seek revenge but would reform institutions responsible for the “political witch-hunt” of his party workers and leaders.

“Reforms are necessary for the bright future of our children,” Mr Gandapur said, without specifying which institutions he aims to reform.

Amid cheers from the protesters, the PTI leader said those who resisted reforms would be punished as per law.

Holding a portrait of the PTI’s founder and former prime minister Imran Khan, he said that the party’s next government in KP would ensure rights for women and vowed to revive the Sehat Card health insurance programme.

Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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