In a crackdown on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which took to the streets against the ousting of the Imran Khan-led government, Pakistani authorities used tear gas and batons against party workers who were preparing for a rally in Sialkot on Saturday morning, according to local media.
The Dawn newspaper, citing the PTI tweet, said several party members, including leader Usman Dar, were arrested ahead of the rally scheduled for later in the day.
Citing television footage, the Pakistani newspaper reported that police were seen dismantling structures erected for the rally while clouds of tear gas were also visible in the footage.
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According to District Police Officer (DPO) Hasan Iqbal, who was present at the rally site, the local Christian community had objected to holding the public meeting on the grounds, claiming it was their property.
“As you know, we are currently standing on land which belongs to the Christian community. They had filed a writ (petition) in the High Court, asking that no political gatherings take place on the land,” said Iqbal, adding that the court then ordered the Deputy Commissioner of Sialkot to listen to both sides and decide the case.
On Friday, former Prime Minister Imran Khan called for the date of the next parliamentary elections in the country.
Addressing a power show in Attock on Thursday, Khan urged people to unite with the PTI for a long march aimed at an “independent Pakistan”. He said he was prepared to face any consequences that might arise, whether it was being killed or being arrested, Ary News reported.
“Send your families if you cannot participate yourself for fear of losing your job,” the ousted Pakistani prime minister said in his address to government workers.
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Earlier, ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the Mianwali rally, said the public march of millions of nationals could not be stopped by anyone, including Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and even the newly elected Prime Minister, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Imran Khan is also likely to be convicted for using “dirty” language in public meetings against national institutions.
Under these circumstances, it is quite obvious that a full-scale confrontation would be difficult to avoid. To contain the likely situation, the incumbent Pakistani government would carry out mass arrests of PTI leaders and activists amid the preparations for the protest and the long march.