Police stops PTI rally preparations in Sialkot, arrests Usman Dar

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SIALKOT:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers were stopped by police and the district administration of Sialkot on Saturday from arranging a rally at the CTI ground with law enforcement resorting to tear gas and batons to disburse the party supporters who resisted the move.

During the dispute, the police arrested PTI leader Usman Dar and several other party activists for trying to hold a rally on the grounds of the Christian community after permission had been earlier denied by DC Imran Qureshi.

Footage showed police personnel at the CTI ground, with PTI activists standing on top of a stationary crane in what seemed to be an attempt to prevent the LEAs from dismantling rally preparations. Clouds of tear gas could also be seen in the footage.

Police and the district administration on Sunday stopped Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members from arranging a rally in Sialkot’s CTI ground, with law enforcement agencies using tear gas and baton-charge to disband party supporters who resisted the move.

During the dispute, the police arrested PTI leader Usman Dar and several other party activists for trying to hold a rally on the grounds of the Christian community allegedly without permission.

Footage showed police personnel at the CTI ground, with PTI activists standing on top of a stationary crane in what seemed to be an attempt to prevent the LEAs from dismantling rally preparations. Clouds of tear gas could also be seen in the footage.

Police arrested Usman Dar, Umar Dar, Hafiz Hamid Raza, Ali Asjad Malhi, Mehr Kashif, Saeed Ahmed, and Barrister Jamshed Ghias Bhili.

Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Hasan Iqbal stated that the ground had been evacuated and no one was detained.

He maintained that the PTI attempted to hold a rally without permission in a place of worship, which was not permitted, and that the district administration had asked them to relocate the rally.

According to a writ petition filed to the deputy commissioner of Sialkot, the “site in question is a private property in the name of “American Mission” … and is in close proximity to the Cantonment Area”.

The petitioner – as well as several other organisations representative of the Christian community – pleaded that the site held a religious sanctity to Christians across the country and “holding a political gathering at the said place may hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community at large which can lead to a law and order situation”.

Deputy Commissioner Sialkot Imran Qureshi said that the meeting could not be held at a private place and that the authorities would permit the party to hold their rally in any other place.

“The relocation is requested because the site is privately owned by the American Church,” he added.

‘Constitutional right to hold a rally’

PTI member Usman Dar claimed that holding a rally was the party’s constitutional legal right.

“We were told a day ago to change the venue of the meeting,” he said, emphasising that party chief Imran Khan would come to Sialkot regardless.

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“Put us in jails but the rally will be held there,” he declared.

According to the party’s media coordinator, Usman Dar and other leaders were being arrested and taken to Narowal Jail.

PTI Vice-Chairperson and former minister for foreign affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that this was not the first rally the party was held in Lahore and that the PTI had conducted several peaceful processions in various cities inside and outside of Punjab.

“For our rally in Sialkot today, the local administration and party leadership had already communicated,” he claimed, adding that the PTI had requested and received permission to hold their rally.

Qureshi further stated that there were no impediments and no legal problems till last night when the relevant authorities were planning security arrangements with party leaders.

“Then there was a call from the higher-ups and the authorities’ attitude changed completely,” he said.

The former minister stated that the new orders seemed to have emerged from London – where PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif currently resides.

Qureshi questioned why the authorities, under whom the PTI had held numerous peaceful rallies – were so determined to ruin the atmosphere today.

Christian community protests

The Christian community of Lahore protested the rally on Mall Road.

The Christian community maintained that the CTI ground was their property where annual religious festivals and educational activities took place.

They claimed that they had requested the district administration to stop the PTI’s political rally, which had offended their sentiment.

PML-N member Khalil Tahir Sindhu stated that the PTI has resorted to bullying, and the political use of church land has hurt the sentiment of the Christian community.

“It is wrong to hold a political meeting at any holy place and conducting a rally on church land is not allowed. The PTI was not given permission by a court, nor by the deputy commissioner,” he said, adding that Usman Dar had resorted to bullying which would not be tolerated.  

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Originally published at tribune.com.pk

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