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The PTI said on Wednesday that one of its workers was killed in Lahore as police launched a crackdown on those participating in the party’s rally following the imposition of Section 144.
The party, which had decided to kick off its election campaign today, had planned to take out a rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar. PTI Chairman Imran Khan and other leaders were also expected to be in attendance.
However, the party later decided to dedicate the demonstration to the judiciary and postponed the launch of its canvassing drive until Saturday.
Prior to the start of the rally, the Punjab Home Department had asked PTI leaders to take “extra precaution”, saying that such public gatherings in the face of security threats were “not advisable”.
Shortly after, the government had proceeded to impose Section 144 in Lahore. Officials had also taken scores of PTI workers into custody for violating the ban and used water cannons in an effort to disperse them which had led the PTI chairman to call off the rally.
In a tweet after calling off the rally, Imran said that party worker Ali Bilal was “murdered by Punjab police”.
“Shameful, this brutality on unarmed PTI workers who were coming to attend an election rally. Pakistan is in the grip of murderous criminals,” he said, adding that the party would file cases against the Punjab inspector general, the Lahore capital city police officer (CCPO) and others for “murder”.
In a second tweet, Imran shared a video of Bilal, adding that it showed that the PTI worker was alive while being transported to the police station.
“So he was killed while in police custody — such is the murderous bent of the present regime and the Punjab police,” he said.
Imran later said he wanted the party’s district presidents and officeholders across the country to offer funeral prayers in absentia for “our martyred worker”.
When asked to comment on the incident, the Lahore CCPO’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Syed Mubashir had initially said he had “no idea”.
Later, he told media that as per the available information, “this is an accident”.
Meanwhile, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar vowed that Bilal’s killer would be “brought to justice one day”. “The use of force has now reached such a level that the sons of the nation are being martyred,” he tweeted.