PTI may hold convention sans ‘political speeches’

District admin official says ‘confusion’ owing to error in drafting of the letter

Arsalan Altaf June 30, 2018
Capital's authorities have decided to ban all political speeches at the PTI event in Jinnah Convention Centre. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The capital’s authorities have allowed the PTI to hold its workers’ convention in the city today, but have surprisingly decided to ban all ‘political speeches’ at the event.

This follows similar bans imposed by the district magistrate of the city earlier this month.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had scheduled to holds its worker’s convention at the Jinnah Convention Centre in the capital on Saturday.

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Having already submitted a request to hold a rally in the capital on July 23, the party had also sought permission from the city administration to hold the convention.

An additional district magistrate on Friday issued the party the requisite no-objection certificate (NOC) for the event but set some tough conditions.

“No political or sectarian speeches will be made,” the letter warned the PTI management.

“Loudspeaker is not allowed. No liquor or any banned drug would be served or allowed during the function. No gambling, in any shape, is allowed,” it added.

The letter further said that the participants will be responsible for organising security for the event, adding that the organisers at the organisers’ shoulders arrange at least 50 security guards and 10 men with metal detectors to search and frisk participants.

“Proper security arrangements for the participants will be made including doctors, ambulances as well as a proper set back area for the participants. The organiser will be personally responsible for protection and security of the participants,” the letter reads.

Another condition imposed on the organisers was to meet international safety standards for the function and provide detailed lists of security arrangements.

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When asked to explain the ban, an official of the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration ducked it by stating that the officials may have mistakenly copy-pasted contents from other documents which resulted in the confusion.

However, the official did not explain whether the ban holds or not.

According to multiple notifications issued by the district magistrate, which were dated June 18 but only surfaced this week on June 26, a ban was imposed on all kinds of public gatherings and rallies as well as distribution of handbills and pamphlets, putting up posters, and the use of loudspeakers in the capital for a period of two months.

The administration had explained that the ban was being imposed to prevent unlawful assemblies which could disturb the public peace in the city.

In an earlier notification, the authorities said public rallies would be allowed at the Shakarparian parade ground only while corner meetings would be allowed in various areas after organisers obtain the requisite permission.

The blanket ban on rallies and distribution of pamphlets has attracted criticism from some electoral candidates of the capital who have questioned the rationale for the ban.

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Ammar Rashid and Ismat Shahjahan of the Awami Worker’s Party, who are contesting from NA-53 and NA-54 respectively, had termed the ban as dictatorial.

“What kind of absurd dictatorial order is this? There is an election going on and Islamabad's administration has banned all the normal ways in which candidates engage with voters,” Rashid wrote on Twitter.

“This is unconstitutional and not acceptable to us,” added Shahjahan, who further pointed out that she had been stopped by the police and stopped from campaigning.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2018.

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