LAHORE/ISLAMABAD - Monday was a day marked by quite a show in front of the Punjab Assembly, where sturdy Punjab Police a day ago had roughed up PTI workers and leaders, causing so much unease that PM Nawaz himself had to advise his chief minister brother to allow peaceful protests.
As the PTI workers and leaders again staged a sit-in in front of the assembly, the situation got tense when some people from within the protest camp thrashed members of the electronic and print media, who in turn protested against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers. A cameraperson was reportedly injured in the brawl. He suffered minor injuries on his face and was shifted to the hospital for treatment.
The media persons later boycotted the assembly proceedings, demanding that strict action be taken against the responsible.
Media reports quoted witnesses as claiming that the attackers were carrying PTI flags and used the sticks to beat up the media persons.
One accused, Muhammad Afzal, was handed over to the police for investigation and PTI workers claimed that he had been sent by agencies from the Punjab government to sabotage the sit-in.
While addressing protesters, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that his party would not be harassed by bullet, batons or dirty games of the Punjab administration.
Later, media persons gathered at Faisal Chowk in front of the Punjab Assembly to protest against the misbehaviour of PTI workers. Media coverage of PTI’s protest was stopped. Journalists bodies also announced to hold protest demonstration at Punjab Assembly today (Tuesday). They said they would also file an application for an FIR against the PTI Punjab president and other party men.
Later, PTI Punjab president Ijaz Chaudhry issued an apology, assuring that the incident will be personally investigated by him. He said that the PTI could never misbehave with the media persons.
Ijaz told The Nation, “It is really a condemnable incident as media is the driving force behind the PTI’s popularity.” He said the party was ready to compensate the affected persons as per their convenience.
Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed talking at the protest camp also apologised to the media persons over the unpleasant event. He assured that those found involved in the incident would be expelled from the party. Rasheed said he would personally talk to party chief Imran Khan about it. Later he also expressed the wish to visit the injured cameraperson in the hospital.
PTI Punjab chief Ijaz Ch said that after ECP’s announcement to hear the recount application of their candidate from PP-150 tomorrow (Wednesday), they have ended their protest against the rigging in this constituency. But he said they would continue their protest drive against rigging in other constituencies during the bye-elections.
Ijaz informed that Imran would address a workers’ convention on Wednesday in Lahore wherein he would press for accepting the PTI demands regarding the rigging, besides highlighting the need of a real local government system.
Expressing its surprise over a returning officer’s decision to reject a request of PTI candidate for a recount of votes polled on August 22 bye-polls in PP-150, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) finally summoned the candidates concerned tomorrow (Wednesday).
The RO, Lahore Additional District and Sessions Judge Javed Iqbal Warraich, had rejected PTI’s Mehr Wajid Azam’s request that he made citing several poll rigging instances. Having secured 18,494 votes, Azim had lost to Mian Marghoob Ahmed of the ruling PML-N by a visibly thin margin of only 376 votes.
The PTI leaders and activists had assembled in Lahore on Saturday to protest against the RO’s decision, which ended up in the use of force and arrests of workers and senior leaders by the Punjab government. The party was to move court before the electoral body finally jumped in.
“…the returning officer prima facie has not attended to all those allegations and has based his order primarily only on one contention of the applicant,” the ECP said in a notice it described as suo moto.
“This was required. Otherwise there would have been a lot of question marks on the by-polls credibility,” said ECP ex-secretary Kanwar Dilshad about the decision. “When a candidate loses with a thin margin of just a few hundred votes, the best thing to do for the RO is to order recounting,” he told this correspondent.