Shahbaz Gill vows to book Sialkot DPO

By Anzil Amin

ISLAMABAD: PTI leader Shahbaz Gill has expressed his desire to file an FIR — “when circumstances permit” — against Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Hasan Iqbal over what he claimed was the latter’s failure to provide security to party chief Imran Khan during his rally at the city’s VIP cricket ground.
The PTI was compelled to hold the jalsa at this ground after authorities refused to allow the political rally to be held at the CTI ground, and sent a contingent of police to dismantle structures PTI workers had erected for the purpose. Upon resistance, police charged at the activists and employed tear gas.
PTI leader Usman Dar and other activists were arrested and subsequently released.
The police action took place because the CTI ground, according to DPO Iqbal, is private property owned by the local Christian community, who objected to its use for a political rally.
The claim, however, was denied by Shunila Ruth, a PTI lawmaker from Punjab who belongs to the Christian community. According to her, this objection was raised by Christian members of the PML-N who were polticising the issue. Ruth claimed that the ground in question was not part of a church compound and was not reserved just for religious events, adding that the “imported government is using the Christian community for its politics”.
“This ground has been used for multiple purposes including weddings, funerals and sports activities for kids,” Ruth said.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb and other cabinet members separately pilloried the PTI for what they said was the party’s attempt to forcibly hold a rally on a property belonging to a minority community.
PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar had said the government would not allow “religious divisions” to be promoted.
Viral social media videos depicted DPO Iqbal calmly explaining to Dar and the other leaders at the scene that the field they were insistent on holding the rally on belongs to the minority community and it would be wholly inappropriate to organise one there, particularly when community had objected to it.
The video was retweeted by PML-N leaders like Maryam Nawaz.
By the afternoon, PTI’s Punjab president Shafqat Mahmood announced that the rally would be held at the VIP ground instead.
“Hasan,” Gill tweeted early Sunday morning, hours after the rally was held. “You destroyed the jalsa venue.
“You did not provide any security at the alternative place. And then by not providing security to Imran Khan, you put his life in danger. As his chief of staff, as soon as circumstances permit, I will file an FIR against you and there will be a complete legal reckoning. Your actions will be remembered.”
However, before Gill’s tweet, the Sialkot DPO’s office had said on Twitter that more than 1,600 police personnel, including several police superintendents and their deputies, were on hand for the event’s security.
After Shafqat Mahmood announced the party would be holding the rally at the other venue, the Sialkot DPO’s office pledged on Twitter that it would be providing “full security” for the jalsa which would be commensurate with Imran Khan’s stature as a former prime minister. In the same tweet, the DPO’s office clarified that the police action was undertaken to ensure the Christian community’s religious sentiments were not hurt.
Then, after Imran Khan’s jalsa was over, the Sialkot DPO’s office tweeted a photo of a Christian boy named Allen Masih saluting the DPO Iqbal for “ensuring the protection of the Christian community’s religious rights”. Minutes after, the office tweeted photos of armed police personnel at the VIP ground — supposedly during the rally — with the accompanying caption: “Sialkot Police provided the best security to the PTI meeting held at VIP Ground. In this connection, 1,678 police officers and men including 2 SPs and 11 DSPs performed their duties.”
Gill then responded to the Sialkot DPO’s tweets, criticising his decorum. He first responded to the tweet showing the boy saluting DPO Iqbal. “You’re in uniform. If you want to salute, do it standing up.
“At least respect that uniform. Now, after these dramas, join the PML-N officially and stand for the MPA election next time under Khawaja Ventilator. Because your actions are those of patwaris (PML-N supporters).”
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif was elected as a lawmaker from Sialkot, and PTI leaders disparagingly refer to the PML-N leader as “ventilator” after he remarked in a media briefing on March 31 that if the US wanted, it could “pull the plug on Pakistan’s economy which is running on ventilators and drips”.
Gill then responded to the tweets detailing the number of police personnel provided for security and dismissed it as “all drama and lies”. “All these people were silent spectators. Standing on the side, no one was on security duty.”
He added that he spoke to a few personnel himself, who told him that DPO “forbade us to go further” and that they should stand on the side.