Pakistan bans rallies, protests citing terrorism; PTI alleges 'martial law'
Pakistan's government on Wednesday banned protests and rallies in Lahore for seven days under Section 144 ahead of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)'s proposed rally and "Aurat march." Authorities have cited poor security situations and threat alerts as reasons for issuing the order. Meanwhile, several people, especially the workers and activists of PTI, were arrested for defying the ban order and clashing with the police.
Why does this story matter?
- Former prime minister Imran Khan's PTI announced a "historic" rally on Wednesday to officially launch the election campaign for the upcoming Punjab provincial elections.
- However, for seven days, the authorities have imposed strict restrictions on such rallies.
- Earlier, a sessions court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Khan in the Toshakhana case after he failed to appear before it.
What does ban order say?
According to the official notification, the ban was imposed on "holding all kinds of assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations, [...] protests and such like other activities across the district Lahore to avert any untoward incident." The prohibition, imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, will take effect immediately. Aside from the planned rally, an "Aurat March" was also planned.
PTI workers defy ban; beaten and arrested by police
Despite official orders, PTI workers took out rallies at various places in Lahore. Police allegedly lathi-charged them and used water cannons to disperse the workers. Police allegedly smashed their cars' windows as well. Several activists were detained by police on Mall Road for violating Section 144, per Dawn. Meanwhile, authorities cordoned off all roads leading to Khan's Zaman Park residence.
Visuals of water canon shared by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry
WaterGun used in Lahore #Fascism pic.twitter.com/XtfOkFpUtJ— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) March 8, 2023
Watch: PTI workers defying official ban order
How will you stop this passion of people? #Fascist_PDM you have lost! pic.twitter.com/aksAKIoP2O— PTI (@PTIofficial) March 8, 2023
'Martial law': PTI accuse government of using violence
Khan allegedly stated that the Punjab government was using violence against his party workers as the party launched its election campaign with only 55 days until the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections. Shireen Mazari, another PTI leader, claimed that Lahore is "under covert martial law," with roads blocked, rallies—including the party's—blocked access, unarmed workers arrested, and sound systems taken away.
Pakistan government justifies ban, cites intelligence inputs
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah justified the government's move to enforce Section 144 in Lahore, saying they have intelligence inputs on probable adverse acts during the demonstrations. He stated that three demonstrations were taking place at the same time: the Aurat March, Jamaat-i-Islami's March, and the PTI's march. "On this basis, the Punjab government thought it appropriate to impose Section 144," he added.