At least 25 people were arrested on Sunday after PTI workers and police clashed in Karachi’s Teen Talwar during an election rally.
According to police, the PTI did not obtain prior permission for holding a rally in the Red Zone, while the party said it was being deprived of its constitutional right to campaign.
The development came as the leaders of all major political parties — including the PPP, the PML-N and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — continued with their election campaigns in the country.
According to witnesses and officials, several workers of the PTI arrived at the venue earlier today to hold a rally on the call of incarcerated party founder Imran Khan. As the activists attempted to block the road, policemen threw tear gas shells to disperse them, they said.
The PTI workers showed resistance and allegedly pelted stones at the policemen, resulting in injuries to some policemen. Later, police called reinforcements who resorted to tear gas shelling and baton-charge to disperse the workers, they added.
South Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) South Asad Raza said that “the PTI held a political rally in the Red Zone without seeking a no-objection certificate from SSP or DC South”.
“When they (the political workers) were stopped, they resorted to violence and pelted stones at police. As a result, Boat Basin SHO Riaz Niazi and several others were injured and shifted to a hospital,” he said.
“Police have arrested 25 persons and a first information report is being registered against them,” he said. The DIG admitted that the police were compelled to take action against the rally because the participants had blocked the main road in Clifton.
Further, Karachi Additional IG Khadim Hussain Rind took notice of reports alleging media personnel were also mistreated by police and ordered an inquiry against those responsible, according to the Karachi police spokesperson.
The South DIG also took notice of the “undesirable attitude” against media personnel and declared that such attitude would not be tolerated.
“After determining who is responsible for torturing the media persons, legal action would be taken against the responsible policemen,” the spokesperson said.
PTI says it had informed district admin of rally
Meanwhile, PTI Karachi spokesperson Falak Almas said the party had “informed” the district administration that it would take out a rally today.
She said the party had initially have planned to take out rally from Sharea Quaideen to the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah but later hanged the venue from Seaview to Teen Talwar due to a rally by Jamaat-i-Islami rally at Bagh-i-Jinnah.
She said when party workers arrived at the venue, police contingents were already deployed, adding that officials resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse them.
Almas also accused officials of beating female activists, adding that at least 30 workers had been arrested. She warned that if the detained workers were not released, they would be compelled to call a protest in Karachi.
The PTI leader alleged that the district administration and the police were creating hurdles for the PTI as other political parties were free to hold rallies/gatherings anywhere in the metropolis.
She lamented that the party was not being provided a “level playing field”.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the PTI shared footage showing police personnel leading a man through a crowd of people, many of whom were carrying the party flag.
“Police are arresting peaceful people at Karachi during PTI’s rally. These are visuals of free and fair elections,” the party said.
It shared another video, in which a large number of police personnel carrying sticks could be seen as a party banner and several flags lay on the floor.
“The police stormed the PTI rally with shamelessness and vandalised trucks and loudspeakers. On whose orders the people are being tortured for taking out a peaceful rally?” the party asked.
“Using tear gas during an election rally is one of the most shameful acts by these caretakers showing their loyalty to Sharif and Zardari. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has completely failed in their basic job,” the party said in another post.
PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan said that police had arrested PTI Sindh General Secretary Ali Pal.
“We strongly condemn this action by Karachi Police. It is the constitutional right of every citizen to hold a peaceful rally during the election campaign,” he said.
Hammad Azhar says his father arrested by police
PTI leader and former federal minister Hammad Azhar said that his octogenarian father, who is also the former Punjab governor, was arrested by the Punjab police ahead of an election rally in Lahore.
In a post on X, Hammad said his 82-year-old father Mian Azhar, a PTI-backed independent candidate contesting for the February 8 elections from the NA-129 constituency, wanted to “lead a rally as per his democratic and constitutional right”.
“Pakistan has today been reduced to a total fascist state with zero human rights or rule of law. One Nawaz Sharif and his daughter calling the shots and ruining the country,” the PTI leader said.
In another post later, Hammad shared a video of his father. “We are in the office and attempts have been made to sabotage our rally, but our spirits are elevated. God willing, we will take out the rally,” Mian Azhar could be heard saying in the clip.
media.com has reached out to Lahore police for a comment.
Meanwhile, the PTI termed the arrest as “highly condemnable”.
“PTI’s candidates are right now being stopped from conducting peaceful election rallies, while on the other side PML-N/PPP and other parties are free to conduct every political event,” it stated.
The party added that the “continuous policy of raiding homes, businesses of our leadership and workers is only producing damage to Pakistanis and Pakistan alone”.
Earlier this week, Imran had directed all the ticket holders to come out in the streets and roads across the country today, warning that the tickets of those who fail to hold rallies would be cancelled.
“We have given clear direction to ticket holders to come out at 2pm and hold rallies and public meetings in their constituencies. They will address the voters and will give a message that PTI will not allow anyone to take its space,” PTI’s Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan told media earlier.
He said that a message had been conveyed to all the leadership to hold rallies across the country without fear of arrest.
“They might be arrested but we believe that it will not affect their election campaign. In fact, they may get more votes [of sympathy] as voters will be observing all what is happening with the PTI. We have also released a video message in that regard,” Hasan added.
On the other hand, PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi told a virtual convention of candidates yesterday that the party would also launch its 158-page manifesto today.
On May 9, 2023, after Imran’s arrest from the Islamabad High Court, PTI workers held protests across the country. The protest, however, turned into riots with some mobs found attacking military installations.