Due to recent terrorist actions and threat alerts, the Punjab Home Department has banned all protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations in Lahore for the ensuing seven days. The decree, which was issued in accordance with Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is effective right now. The Lahore district-wide prohibition extends to all sorts of meetings, assemblies, processions, and similar events. The ban was announced on the same day as an Aurat March and a rally by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were scheduled for Lahore.
A Dawn correspondent on the scene claims that as a result of the restriction, multiple PTI supporters were detained by police on Mall Road for violating Section 144. The access roads to PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park home were also blocked off. Officers allegedly damaged the windows of some demonstrators’ vehicles while using water cannons to try and disperse the throng. Videos of these instances were also posted on the party’s official Twitter account.
The official Twitter account of the PTI shared another video claiming that their “peaceful workers” were being detained.
With only 55 days to elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI chairman accused the caretaker government in Punjab of employing heavy-handed police force against unarmed workers to prevent their scheduled rally, which served as the beginning of their election campaign. He questioned the legitimacy of the government’s activities and described them as an attack on democracy, the rule of law, and the Constitution. Additionally, he cautioned that disobeying the Supreme Court’s decision creates a risky precedent and equates to enforcing the law of the jungle.
Shireen Mazari of the PTI also highlighted her concerns about the situation in Lahore, claiming that it appeared as though the city was under “covert martial law”. Roads were being blocked, rallies—including their own—were being stopped, and unarmed employees were being detained while their sound equipment were seized, she said. She alluded to the interim chief minister of Punjab by calling him a “crook Naqvi” who was using fascist methods.
The Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a notice to all satellite TV networks following the installation of the ban, citing a previous directive from a 2019 case, ordering them to stop covering protests on the Mall Road Red Zone in Lahore. Pemra observed that some TV networks were airing slanderous and hostile content against state institutions while reporting public meetings and protests, which was in breach of the Pemra Electronic Media Code of Conduct 2015. Pemra further claimed that this coverage was against a prior Lahore High Court ruling (2020 CLC 157) that forbade television networks from covering protests taking place in the Mall Road Red Zone.
Pemra issued a directive to all satellite TV channels after the protests on Mall Road ordering them to stop covering the protests citing prior instructions and court decisions. Pemra stated that such coverage was against their code of conduct for electronic media and threatened sanctions for any licensee who broke the law.
Rana Sanaullah, the interior minister, defended the implementation of Section 144 in Lahore and claimed that it was essential owing to the several rallies taking place at once in the same area, which could result in events. He added that the PTI’s failure to inform the authorities of the rally’s path resulted in the enforcement of Section 144. He also questioned Imran Khan’s assertions that he was ill.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar claimed that by forbidding any political activity in the city despite the forthcoming April 30 elections, Punjab interim Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and those in charge of him were putting a stop to democracy. Speaking to media in front of Imran’s Lahore home in Zaman Park, he lambasted the caretaker administration for making the election campaign more difficult by outlawing rallies and other political events. Azhar further said that the present government, specifically Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, wanted to provoke violence in the city. He asked the party members to maintain calm, avoid conflict, and remain where they were.