ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan Friday night said he was shocked to know that at least seven of his supporters had died of stampede-caused suffocation at the end of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally in Multan.
“It’s really tragic. I am at loss of words. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of victims”, PTI chief said addressing the participants of his party’s sit-in in the heart of federal capital.
Khan pinned all the blame on local administration and police.
“Shah Mehmood Qureshi told me that DCO Multan had been absolutely non-cooperative with us the whole time”, Khan added.
He said that opening/closing the gates of the stadium and controlling the influx/outflow of the rally-goers was city administration’s responsibility.
“To start with, as soon as the rally came to an end, they turned the lights off, plunging the venue in darkness. Then they threw water on the people, which panicked them into stampeding. And when tens of thousands of headlong-rushing people were squeezed out through just two gates they started falling down and getting trampled over”, Khan explained.
According to an official statement issued by PTI, party chief Imran Khan and other leaders will attend the funeral prayers of the deceased workers in Multan.
“Chairman Khan will also visit Nishtar Hospital to inquire after the health of injured PTI workers”, the staement added.
Later talking to Samaa, the whole PTI leadership admitted that management at the rally was an utter failure.
“We take full responsibility of the deaths and apologize to the heirs of those PTI workers who lost their lives in the tragic incident”, PTI leader Imran Ismaeel said.
PTI leader, Shafqat Mehmood, also condemned the organizers of the rally for gross mismanagement.
“It is one of the most unfortunate incidents in the history of our party. We beg the pardon of the bereaved families. We can’t be sorrier. It would not have happened had organizers been more careful”, Mehmood said in his message of condolence.
Earlier, at least seven people were killed and 40 others wounded in a stampede at the PTI rally ended in Multan.
The deaths occurred in Multan city after the cricketer-turned-politician addressed a crowd to press his demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who he accuses of vote rigging in last year’s elections.
“At least seven people are dead and 27 others wounded,” Pervez Haider, director of the emergency department at Nishtar Hospital confirmed.
Multan police chief Sultan Chaudhry confirmed the casualties and said the stampede occurred when people were leaving the stadium after the rally.
Khan, along with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, has been staging a sit-in in the capital Islamabad since August 15. Protest rallies have also been held in other Pakistani cities.
Khan and Qadri claim the 2013 elections were massively rigged, but local and foreign observers say the polls were credible.
Their followers clashed with police in late August after they tried to storm the prime minister’s residence, leaving three demonstrators dead and hundreds injured on both sides.
On September 1, the opposition groups briefly occupied the state broadcaster but the movement has since lost momentum.
Analysts believe the protests have been coordinated by the powerful army as a means of re-asserting its dominance over civilian authorities.