PTI protesters pour out onto streets nationwide


ISLAMABAD:

Supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took to the streets on Friday immediately after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified its Chairman Imran Khan in Toshakhana reference.

The PTI supporters and workers, led by local party leaders, protested on major and link roads in cities and towns, burning tyres, shouting slogans and at places clashing with police.

There were clashes between police and PTI supporters in Rawalpindi’s Faizabad Interchange, where reportedly one protester was injured. The police resorted to heavy teargas shelling to prevent the protesters from entering Islamabad.

The protests were called by senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, who said that the party would challenge the ECP decision in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and urged people to take to the streets “for their rights”.

Soon after the announcement, PTI workers blocked roads in many cities. The reports of roads and highways closure in various cities created a state of fear and uncertainty among the people.

Islamabad

Tense scenes were witnessed outside the ECP building after the electoral supervisor disqualified the PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana (gift depository) reference.

As soon as the verdict was announced, PTI supporters and party workers began protesting over the decision and workers present outside the ECP office shouted slogans in support of Imran Khan.

Islamabad police reportedly seized firearms from a Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa policeman who was later reported to be the guard of PTI MNA Saleh Muhammad Khan. As the weapon was being recovered a shot was fired.

The capital police claimed that the shot was fired by the K-P policeman, who was arrested. The police later also arrested MNA Saleh. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that “this matter is being investigated”.

Punjab

A large number of PTI workers, led by Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Wasiq Qayyum, protested at various places in Rawalpindi. The protesters tried to enter Islamabad from Faizabad.

However, the Islamabad police started heavy teargas shelling and pushed back the protesters towards Faizabad. In response, the protesters clashed with police and threw stones at them. One PTI worker was injured in the quarrel.

Because of the clashes, the link between Rawalpindi and Islamabad remained cut for several hours. Public transport was also closed during the protests in the twin cities.

Protesters also gathered at various other places, including the Expressway, Rawat, T-Chowk, Gujar Khan, Taxila and the Motorway, causing great hardship to commuters.

In the meanwhile, the Punjab police chief Inspector General Faisal Shahkar issued instructions to the Rawalpindi police range officer (RPO) and other relevant officials not to allow closure of the highways.

The Islamabad police said later that the route from Faizabad towards Islamabad had been opened, adding that the route from Islamabad would also be opened soon. Police said some people were setting trees on fire.

In Lahore, the PTI workers protested at Kalma Chowk and Chungi Amar Sindhu. The workers also blocked the metro bus and chanted slogans against the ECP, according to witnesses.

PTI youths blocked the M5 Motorway near Billiwala on Multan’s suburbs, according to reports, while protesters staged a sit-in on Multan road in Vehari, bringing the heavy traffic to a halt. The workers also protested in Chinot.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Groups of PTI supporters blocked a number of key roads in Peshawar, including the highway connecting the city with Islamabad. The PTI supporters gathered at the Toll Plaza and burnt tyres, disrupting traffic.

The protesters blocked a road near Pir Zakordi bridge and another near Stadium Chowk. They also blocked the road leading to the Lady Reading Hospital.

Similar protest was also held in Farooq-e-Azam Chowk in Charsadda where the PTI protesters were confronted by the ANP workers. However no clash was reported in the presence of heavy police contingent.

Protests were also held in Swabi, Shabqadar, Mardan, Nowshera and other cities. Moreover, Mangora Road in the Swat district had been closed by the protesters.Balochistan

PTI supporters staged a protest demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club besides blocking the main highway, linking Quetta with Islamabad, in Kuchlak and Muslim Bagh.

Former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri and other leaders led the protesters outside the Quetta Press Club. The workers chanted full-throated slogans against the ECP and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

“PTI will resist this ECP decision,” Suri told the flag-waving party supporters. He warned that the party would intensify its protest across the country against what he called the imported government.

The party workers also blocked the main highway in Muslim Bagh and Kuchlak. Long queues of vehicles on both sides of the road were witnessed as a result of the protest. People suffered difficulties because of the roadblock.

The district administration had taken strict security measures on the eve of the protest demonstration to avert any untoward incident. Baton-wielding policemen were deployed outside the press club to maintain order.

Sindh

A police contingent also reached the party’s offices on Sharae Faisal to pre-empt any untoward situation as the PTI workers gathered there. Police also deployed water cannons in light of the looming threat of violence.

Traffic on the main artery of the metropolis’ communication was disrupted because of the protest. Senior PTI leader Ali Haider Zaidi described the gathering a “peaceful protest”.

Later, the protesters led by Zaidi, Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Mehmood Moulvi and others staged a sit-in outside the Sindh Election Commission’s office. The protesters tried to enter the office building but were repelled by the police.

(WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)

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