The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has seemingly broken all previous records of holding mass meetings at Lahore’s historic Minar-e-Pakistan on Thursday, proving yet another time that former premier Imran Khan is a crowd-puller.
It was a great show of power by the party which was ousted from power on April 10 following the success of a no-trust motion against the then prime minister Khan. Thousands of people from the city, considered a citadel of the Sharifs, reached the rally site despite hurdles by the city administration and warnings of a security threat to Khan.
The Lahore administration issued a security warning via a notification a day before the rally, suggesting Khan address the gathering virtually at Greater Iqbal Park.
On the same night, the administration placed containers on all roads leading to the site of the rally. Even the smaller streets of the old city leading to Minar-e-Pakistan were blocked by placing barriers and barbed wires. Heavy contingents of police were deployed to stop the people’s passage. The road leading to Minar-e-Pakistan from the shrine of Hazarat Data Gunj Bakash was blocked right from the start. The road from Badami Bagh to old Lorry Adda was blocked for a long stretch besides blockage of the road leading from the Lahore Railway Station to Royal Fort. Likewise, traffic diversions were placed on the road in Shahdra round-about, with heavy containers near Lakkar Mandi.
But all the hurdles and containers coming in the way of PTI workers and supporters could not stop them from reaching their destination and the party successfully held its ‘power show’ in the heart of Lahore. No other party in recent years could dare to hold its power show on the vast ground of Minar-e-Pakistan. Last time, it was Pakistan Democratic Movement which held its power show in December 2020.
“The small streets leading to this ground have been blocked but we have passed through all these hurdles,” said a young woman. Another worker, who had opted for a shirt she had worn at the last gathering of Imran Khan, also reached there by wearing the same shirt to support the party.
“I wore this shirt to the last gathering of Imran Khan. I saved this shirt and took it out to wear it and to support my party today,” she added.
Another woman supporter came there with a placard that read ‘Khan did good deeds and exposed the traitors’. She said, “Khan has exposed these ‘traitors’. I just don’t want to talk about them”. She said Imran Khan did not stay in the power corridors just for the sake of this country.
PTI Punjab president Shafqat Mahmood also complained that the containers and barriers were put in such a way that caused trouble to the party leaders and workers. “We are removing these containers. The way these containers have been put is not acceptable to us. We have asked the chief secretary to remove these containers. This is an attempt to make us fail,” said Shafqat Mahmood.
Another PTI leader Mian Aslam Iqbal also made a similar complaint. He said he walked almost four kilometers to reach the Greater Iqbal Park. Iqbal said, “Everything is packed. This cannot lessen the public sentiments. Our stance is that we want to live with respect. We want cordial relations with all countries with respect,” he added.
Usman Dar, the former special assistant to PM on youth, also complained that the government put containers to stop people from taking part in PTI’s gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan. Dar, however, thanked Lahoris for showing support to the PTI.