• Party flexes muscles in a run-up to April 28 ‘power show’
• Several activists detained, freed after talks
• Police say PTI was stopped from holding rally on Sharea Faisal without permission

(Clockwise from top left) Women police officers surround a PTI supporter near Insaf House on Sharea Faisal; a participant of the protest is being dragged away by policemen; and senior vice president of PTI Sher Afzal Marwat is welcomed by party workers, on Sunday.—PPI / Shakil Adil / White Star
(Clockwise from top left) Women police officers surround a PTI supporter near Insaf House on Sharea Faisal; a participant of the protest is being dragged away by policemen; and senior vice president of PTI Sher Afzal Marwat is welcomed by party workers, on Sunday.—PPI / Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Defying hurdles erected by police and arrests of workers, a large number of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf workers staged a rally on Sunday evening and demanded that party founder Imran Khan be released from prison immediately.

The PTI had initially announced a rally from its headquarters Insaf House on Sharea Faisal to Mazar-i-Quaid. However, before the start of the event a heavy contingent of police cordoned off the area and made the event almost impossible.

A PTI spokesperson, Moha­mmed Ali Bozdar, claimed that the police detained over 20 workers from Hassan Square, Sachal, Korangi, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Sharea Faisal and other areas.

However, police sources denied arrest of any PTI worker.

A senior official, who wished not to be named, said that they just ‘prevented’ the activists from taking out the rally from Insaf House as they did not have any permission from the district administration.

It all started in the second half of the day when PTI leaders led by its Sindh chapter president Haleem Adil Sheikh and senior vice president Sher Afzal Marwat, who landed in Karachi specially to attend the event, assembled at Insaf House to find heavy contingent of police surrounding the area.

Within next few minutes, the police blocked both tracks of Sharea Faisal to stop the rally from taking off, which caused a gridlock on the key thoroughfare.

However, PTI workers defied police arrangements, upon which the police detained a number of activists promoting strong protest from the party on main Sharea Faisal.

“We had announced the rally several days ago,” said Haleem Adil Sheikh while talking to reporters.

“All of a sudden the police jumped in and placed hurdles on our route without mentioning any reason. They harassed our workers, arrested them and moved them to Baloch Colony police station. What kind of democracy is this? It’s worse than dictatorship. But let me be very clear. We won’t stop. Peaceful protest is our right and we will exercise it at every cost.”

The protest followed talks between police authorities and PTI leaders that led to release of party workers, a PTI spokesman said.

Finally, the rally started from Sharea Faisal and reached its destination by sunset, during which it was joined by number of other rallies form other parts of the city.

Addressing the rally, the leaders vowed to continue their struggle for a ‘true democratic state’ with rule of law and where people “would be free to choose their rulers”.

“The people of Karachi have proved again that they’re only with Imran Khan and they can’t be scared off such illegal tactics,” said Mr Marwat while addressing the rally.

“The mandate of Karachi and entire Pakistan belongs to Imran Khan and anyone who wishes to minus Imran Khan from the country’s politics actually lives in fool’s paradise. Today’s massive rally and this sea of people is message to all those forces that they can no more keep Imran Khan behind the bars.”

Haleem Adil in his address said that the Sunday’s event was only a ‘trailer’ for the upcoming power show on April 28 in Karachi.

“The people of Karachi would come out again on April 28 for another massive rally which would be in Bagh-i-Jinnah,” he said.

“Karachi’s residents have consistently supported the PTI. In 2024 elections, the people witnessed massive rigging through which all of our Karachi seats were taken away. The people now demand accountability for the theft of mandate. This forthcoming rally in Karachi will be monumental.”

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2024

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