Ahead of its election rally in Lahore, the PTI approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday against the “illegal imposition of Section 144 in Lahore” by the caretaker Punjab government.
Last night, PTI chief Imran Khan, in an apparent act of defiance, announced a fresh rally in Lahore today — days after the interim setup cracked down on the party’s March 8 election rally.
Soon after the announcement, the district administration banned on public gatherings through the invocation of Section 144 in the Punjab capital, citing concerns in the wake of a Pakistan Super League (PSL) match in the city.
In a media talk on Sunday morning, PTI leader and lawyer Babar Awan said that a petition had been filed in the electoral body against the imposition of Section 144 in Lahore.
The plea, said that the ECP had already announced the schedule for polls in the province and permitted all the political parties to undertake activities as per the law.
However, it noted, the Punjab interim government in blatant violation of the ECO’s code of conduct and relevant orders had directed the district administration of Lahore to impose Section 144 in Lahore in a bid to stop the PTI rally in Lahore.
“This is the second time since the announcement of the election schedule, Punjab Interim Government has led to this fascist tactic to stop Pakistan’s largest political party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) to do electoral/political activity.”
The petition recalled that on March 8, the interim government in Punjab had imposed a ban on rallies in Lahore which led to a police operation on a party worker and the death of Zille Shah — a worker who PTI claims was killed by the Punjab police during the crackdown.
“The Punjab Interim Government/CM/Cabinet wants to repeat the same events even now and this light-handedness may lead to lego constitutional crises and political instability,” the petition warned.
It further highlighted that the PTI rally was slated to commence at 2pm today while the PSL match in the city was scheduled for 7pm. “The PTI rally will end by 5:30pm for which the rally route is completely different from the PSL match.”
The applicant also referred to the Supreme Court’s March 1 order — in which it had directed the ECP to immediately hold elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab — saying that in its judgment the apex court had issued directions to the federal government and interim Punjab set up under Article 148 of the Constitution.
“It is the constitutional duty of the Federation, in terms of clause (3) of Article 148 ‘to ensure that the Government of every Province is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution’.
“There can be no doubt that this duty includes ensuring that a general election to the Assembly of every Province is held, and enabled to be held in a timely manner within the period set out in the Constitution. This duty is in addition to and applies independently of the duty cast under Article 220 on ‘all executive authorities in the Federation and in the Provinces to assist the Commissioner and the Election Commission in the discharge of his or their functions’,” the petition quoted the apex court’s orders.
It further quoted that “it is the duty of the Provincial governments, acting under the caretaker cabinets to proactively provide all aid and assistance as may be required by the election commission”.
“The ECP is requested to take notice of this illegal imposition of Section 144 in Lahore and the order may be declared null and void and without justification and PTI may be allowed to hold an election rally as per plan,” the petition concluded.
Meanwhile, in his media talk today, Awan said that the Punjab government’s orders were unconstitutional, undemocratic, and against the law.
He claimed that the PTI petition had been accepted and urged the ECP to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.
Separately, PTI leader Yasmin Rashid said that the party would also be approaching various courts against the imposition of Section 144 in Lahore.