Islamabad: Former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan on Monday led his party’s election rally, the first electoral activity led by him in a period of more than four months.
With a major show of power in Lahore, Imran Khan has formally kicked off the election campaign in Punjab where elections are to be held for the provincial assembly’s seats next on April 30.
The PTI Chairman, who is recuperating at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore after an attack on his life in November near Wazirabad, had earlier announced to lead the rally on Sunday, April 12, but after the Lahore District Government imposed Section 144 in the city on the same day, he rescheduled the rally for Monday.
The rally started from Zaman Park and Imran Khan himself was leading the rally in a bulletproof vehicle. After passing through different areas of Lahore it culminated at the (shrine) Data Darbar, which is located at the heart of the provincial metropolis.
The district administration had allowed the PTI to take out the public rally on Monday but at the same time warned that it was not only risking the lives of the party leadership but also of the workers and the general public as there were general and specific threats against political gatherings.
Besides, the district government had also cited a previous instance of attack on the ex-prime minister in November 2022.
The permission was given after an undertaking by the party’s Lahore president to the “effect that in case of any untoward incident it shall be held responsible”. The notification had also barred speeches against the constitutional offices, including the military and judiciary.
While highlighting the overwhelming participation of the people in the PTI rally, Senior Vice-President of the party and former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry commented on social media: “Watch the scenes of the rally in Lahore at this time and understand that stopping Imran Khan is like inviting people’s wrath.”
PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was also part of the public rally said his party workers would remain peaceful. “We don’t want chaos. We have no intention of destroying the peace and this is not our party’s thinking or plan of action,” said Qureshi, while talking to media persons on the occasion.
ECP seeks report from Punjab caretaker govt over Section 144
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has sought a report from the caretaker government over the PTI’s plea regarding imposition of Section 144 in the city.
It said a letter was issued to the chief secretary saying that the commission was bound to conduct transparent and peaceful elections under the rules and constitution of Pakistan. Thus, a comprehensive report should be submitted to the electoral body by Tuesday so that further plan of action could be considered.
Courts in the capital, Islamabad, have issued two more arrest warrants for Khan over his failure to appear before judges in graft and terrorism cases, officials said.
Khan’s critics say his flaunting of the courts is a manoeuvre to delay his trials on allegations of terrorism, contempt of court and graft.
One of the warrants issued Monday was over charges that Khan sold state gifts and concealed assets while in office; the other in connection with his verbal threats against a judge during a rally last year.