PTI protests against ‘rigging’ met with arrests across country

Published March 3, 2024
LAHORE: Police detain a PTI supporter during a protest against alleged rigging in elections, near GPO Chowk, on Saturday.—AFP
LAHORE: Police detain a PTI supporter during a protest against alleged rigging in elections, near GPO Chowk, on Saturday.—AFP

• Workers face off with policemen in Punjab; footage shows people being dragged out of cars
• Party terms protest ‘successful’, claims several leaders, workers rounded up

LAHORE / ISLAM­ABAD: PTI leaders and workers came face to face with the police once again on Saturday as the party staged protests across the country, despite inclement weather, against the alle­ged rigging in the February 8 general elections.

Police in Punjab thras­hed and arrested several workers and leaders in Lahore and other cities. PTI claimed that around 80 protesters were arres­ted from Lahore alone.

Protests were held in 38 cities of Punjab on Saturday. In Lahore, the protesters at GPO Chowk and Liberty Chowk were greeted by a heavy contingent of police.

PTI leaders and workers who gathered at GPO Chowk chanted the slogans, but as leaders tried to address the crowd, they were stopped and arrested by police.

PTI leaders Mian Shahzad Farooq and Afzaal Azeem Pahat, who contested the election last month against Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif, respectively, were also arrested.

Former Supreme Court Bar Secretary Aftab Bajwa and several party workers were arrested from GPO Chowk, as well as Liberty Roundabout in Lahore.

The protesters vowed to continue their struggle to get their due mandate back and said the incumbent government could not silence them by registering “fake FIRs”.

They said it was their right to hold peaceful protests.

PTI leader Zubair Khan Niazi, who has been in hiding since May 9, appeared at the demonstration at GPO Chowk.

Videos of people being dragged out of cars and arrested for displaying PTI flags on their cars were also doing the rounds on social media.

In one footage, police could be seen beating and dragging a man out of his jeep, bearing a PTI flag. The PTI leadership has condemned the police actions to sabotage what they called “peaceful protest” against the alleged rigging in elections and stealing of mandate.

PTI central Punjab general secretary Hammad Azhar, who has been in hiding since May 9 last year, said the “controversial” chief minister, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, had committed fascism by using the state’s machinery against peaceful protesters.

The former federal minister added that his party would provide legal assistance to all those arrested by the police and annou­nced that PTI would stage another protest next week.

In Gujrat, police deta­ined several PTI workers after they staged a protest at Kutchery Chowk.

The demonstration was led by PTI’s candidate for NA-64, Qaisara Elahi, the wife of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, and her sister Sumaira Elahi.

The PTI workers reached the venue in the form of rallies from across the district, while the main rally started from the Zahoor Elahi Palace.

Protests in Sindh In Sindh, protests were staged outside press clubs across the province.

Led by senior party leaders, a major demonstration was held outside the Karachi Press Club. PTI Sindh chapter president Haleem Adil Sheikh led the protest in rural towns and small cities of Sindh, including Dhabeji, Gharo, Gujjo, Thatta, Jamshoro and Hyderabad.

In his address, Mr Sheikh said the PTI won 22 National Assembly seats and 38 of the Sindh Assembly in the province, but it was deprived of the mandate through “fake Form 47”.

“Even Sindh, which is falsely dubbed as PPP’s stronghold, has rejected the politics of corruption and nepotism,” Mr Sheikh claimed.

Demos in Islamabad

In Islamabad, a large number of PTI workers held the protest despite heavy rain. The demonstration was led by the party’s election candidates from Islamabad, Amir Mughal, Shoaib Shaheen and Ali Bukhari.

The rally started at the F-6 Super Market, and later, the protesters gathered in front of the National Press Club.

While addressing the rally, Mr Mughal said 250 million people were supporting PTI and standing shoulder to shoulder with Imran Khan.

“From Karachi to Khyber, people gave a clear message that their leader is Imran Khan. We will not allow the assemblies to run if our leader is not released and the mandate of people not returned,” he said.

While talking to Dawn, Mr Mughal said that the huge demonstration, despite rain, showed that no difficulties could stop people from supporting Mr Khan.

He said that although a heavy contingent of police was present, it did not interfere with the protest.

‘People came out in droves’

A PTI spokesman called the protests a success and said a large number of people came out on the PTI founder’s call.

Despite the use of state machinery to disrupt peaceful protests across the country, a large

number of people held demonstrations across the country against the “theft of the public mandate” on Saturday.

He said people came out “in droves” on the call of Imran Khan against election “fraud”.

Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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