Despite the interim Punjab government’s “threat alert” that terrorists might target political functions in the provincial capital, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) jalsa at Lahore’s monumental Minar-e-Pakistan ground is underway.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has arrived at the venue and will address the crowd, but from a bulletproof container that has been placed at the jalsa ground to ensure his security. Imran Khan was ousted as Prime Minister in April last year and is embroiled in dozens of cases.
The government stated in the alert that terrorists carrying explosive material have arrived in Lahore and will either target political rallies or law enforcement personnel deployed to secure those events.
As the party prepares for the gathering, the government has placed containers on the road leading to Minar-e-Pakistan, creating obstacles for those wishing to participate in the jalsa.
However, caretaker Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir stated in his statement that people are not being prevented from attending the rally by barriers, but that law enforcement agencies are ensuring citizens’ safety through these measures.
The minister also stated that workers from any political party are welcome to attend the rally, and that the government has granted the PTI permission to hold the event.
The routes from Ravi Bridge and the Railway Station to Minar Pakistan have been closed, and containers have been placed at the city’s Shah Alam Market.
Furthermore, the Sagian Bridge and the Engineering University Road are closed. Containers have blocked the Shahdara, Ravi Toll Plaza, and Bati Chowk routes to Minar-e-Pakistan, as well as Niazi Chowk, Delhi Gate, and Dumuria Bridge.
According to Geo News, police arrested over 50 PTI workers in various areas of Rahim Yar Khan, while 26 workers, including PTI leader Javed Akhtar Ansari’s son, were arrested in Multan.
According to the PTI, many workers from Lodhran and Bhakkar have also been detained.
Meanwhile, CCPO Lahore Bilal Siddique Kamyana denied reports of roadblocks on roads leading up to the ground, saying people are allowed to pass through after being checked.
Internet access has been suspended in several Lahore neighborhoods, including Zaman Park, Minar-e-Pakistan, Garhi Shahu, Davis Road, and Lakshmi Chowk.
Internet service was reported to be suspended in areas near the PTI public meeting venue.
However, Lahore police have stated that the “security measures” should not be interpreted as “blocking” the roads. The police added that “steps” had been taken to connect with the security threats.
“Citizens are reaching the Minar-e-Pakistan without any hindrance,” the police official refuted the PTI’s allegations.
People heading towards the venue of the PTI Jalsa are being checked to avoid any untoward incident, the officials added.
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the city administration had cluttered the city with barricades to undermine the party’s scheduled public rally, implying panic in the government camp. He called on workers to walk to the rally if the roads were blocked.
“How can they call themselves democratic? Are the workers of PML-N arrested?” Qureshi said talking to the media hours ahead of the PTI’s Minar-e-Pakistan rally.
He said the district administration had threatened the transporters that any vehicle bearing PTI flags would not be allowed to enter Lahore.
“Despite all the obstacles, people will come,” the PTI leader said while strictly advising workers not to take the law into their hands.
Holding a peaceful public gathering was their constitutional right, Qureshi said and added why roads were blocked under the pretext of security when the PTI was allowed to rally at Minar-e-Pakistan.
“We have to defend the constitution and stand by the judiciary,” said the PTI senior stalwart adding, “What is happening in Lahore is in front of everyone to see?”
“The district administration looks not only helpless but also incapacitated.
Why did they block the city with shipping containers after granting us the right to political freedom?”
The court granted permission, he said, adding that there was no reason for containers.
“The police and the administration are requested to remove the containers,” Qureshi passionately appealed to the authorities.
He said obstacles were proof that PTI’s power show was proving to be a success even before starting.
“Imran Khan’s today’s message is very important. If they don’t let your car through, come on foot,” said Qureshi while complaining that their workers were being arrested.
He said police had arrested around 1,500 to 1,800 PTI workers since the announcement of the rally.
“Police are raiding workers’ houses during Iftar and after taraweeh to arrest them and are taking their sons with them if they can’t find the fathers.”
Qureshi said he did not like the word “democratic” in the name of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). “People do not consider PDM members as democrats and are also not ready to accept it.”
Qureshi questioned: “Why are containers not used to block the cities where Maryam Nawaz goes to address rallies?” Lahore has a political consciousness and it has never been silent, he said.
He said there were reports the government had announced to cancel licences of the vehicles used by the rally-goers to reach Lahore. “We are not doing anything illegal. We are only holding a public meeting with the permission of the court,” Qureshi said.
He also issued an advisory on the political workers’ code of conduct by telling them not to carry sticks or stones to the rally but come armed with passion.
“There’s no weapon greater than passion,” Qureshi said.
The PTI leader said they were taking legal action against the postponement of elections from April to October this year.
“Given the sensitivity of the situation, the Chief Justice of Pakistan is requested to hear the plea on the causal list.”
“We are unarmed. We are not wielding sticks. If they (the government) make mischief, we will remain patient,” said he. “When the chief justice takes up our petition, Shehbaz Sharif could also face a verdict similar to the one that disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister.”
Let’s not forget Gilani also got disqualified for disobeying the court order, Qureshi said.
“Now Shehbaz is doing the same thing.”
The police launched a crackdown on PTI workers earlier today, and some roads leading to the location have been closed, according to Geo News.
On Twitter, the PTI chairman urged his supporters in Lahore to attend the jalsa following Taraweeh prayers, which he believes will “break all records.”
The deposed prime minister, who was ousted last year in April through a vote of no-confidence, said that he will give his vision of “Haqeeqi Azadi” and how to pull the country out of the mess the “cabal of crooks have put our country in”.
Saying that the [government] will put obstacles to prevent the supporters from attending the gathering, Khan highlighted that it is the people’s fundamental right to be a part of a jalsa.
“Everyone must assert their right as people of a free nation that won its independence & come to Minar i Pakistan,” he added.
Today’s public gathering will take place after Taraweeh at 9pm at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan.
The district administration has granted permission for the PTI to hold a rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan tonight; however, containers have been placed on some routes leading to the rally, including the Lahore entrance and exit routes.