Pakistani Police Use Water Cannon, Tear Gas on PTI Workers Ahead of Lahore Rally to Support Imran Khan

Edited By: Oindrila Mukherjee

Last Updated: March 08, 2023, 22:20 IST

Supporters of former PM Imran Khan react to tear gas smoke fired by police ahead of an election campaign rally, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday. (Image: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

The Punjab Police detained workers of the Imran Khan-led PTI for allegedly violating Section 144, while a heavy police force was deployed near upscale Zaman Park, where the former prime minister lives

Pakistani police cracked down on workers of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, using water cannons and tear gas to disperse them ahead of a protest rally in Lahore on Wednesday.

The Punjab Police detained PTI workers for allegedly violating Section 144, while a heavy police force was deployed near upscale Zaman Park, where former prime minister Imran Khan lives. Two dozen of his supporters were arrested for defying a government ban on holding rallies, police said.

A senior PTI leader, Hammad Azhar, claimed that dozens of workers had been arrested while women were mistreated. Police swung batons and briefly fired tear gas on the road leading to Khan’s house to disperse his supporters, while television footage showed at least one large truck spraying water, scattering protesters.

Khan, who was in his home at the time, condemned the use of “massive police violence against unarmed” people.

Fawad Chaudhry, another senior PTI leader, tweeted that the ban on protests was “the new weapon of the fascist government” of Shehbaz Sharif and its “imperialist forces”. “The people of Pakistan have always fought for their rights,” Chaudhry added.

According to a notification of the provincial interior department, protests, sit-ins and demonstrations have been banned in Lahore for seven days starting Wednesday.

The developments came as Khan launched provincial election campaigns on Tuesday for eastern Punjab and northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, where PTI has held a majority in past rounds of voting.

Khan, now opposition leader, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April. He has claimed his removal was illegal and has also campaigned for early parliamentary elections. The Shehbaz Sharif-led government has dismissed Khan’s demands, saying the nationwide vote will take place as scheduled later in the year.

The 70-year-old former cricket star is embroiled in a string of court cases, including terrorism charges raised by the police in different parts of the country. He has so far avoided arrest and claims the legal imbroglio has been orchestrated by the government in an attempt to silence him.

(With PTI inputs)

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