LAHORE - The PTI carried the day as a majority of the important city markets and business centres remained closed, and transport vehicles stayed off-road on Monday in response to Imran Khan’s strike call, though fear of unpleasant reaction from the angry protesters also played a role in suspension of routine life.

At the end of the day, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman urged the government to come to the negotiating table in 48 hours or his party would make it impossible for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to stay in power.

The strike call had been given by Imran Khan to mount pressure on the government to set up a judicial commission to probe the allegations that the last year’s general elections had been massively rigged.

Most of the private educational institutions also remained closed and the attendance was very thin in government sector schools, colleges and universities. Government offices witnessed low attendance; hospitals received comparatively lesser patients due to sit-ins at over a couple of dozen important places.

The protest was largely peaceful except at Chungi Amar Sadhu, Shah Alam Market and Bhaati chowk where minor clashes came between PTI and PML-N supporters. Angry workers, however, threw water bottles on reporters and crew of a certain media group.

PTI workers blocked all entry/exit points including Thokar Niaz Baig, GT Road Shahdara, Chungi Amar Siddu, Ferozepur Road, Saggian Bridge, Ravi Bridge, and various important places inside the city by staging sit-ins early morning. However, the protesting workers facilitated free movement of ambulances and media vehicles.

Salman Rafique, health adviser to Punjab CM, claimed that three people, including two infants, died in ambulances stuck in traffic jams caused by the protests, but the claim was not substantiated by hospital sources and rejected by PTI leaders.

The selected locations for protest were Shahdara, Bhati Chowk, Shah Alam Circular Road, PMG Chowk, Babu Sabu, Mall Road, GT Road, Shalamar, Mughalpura, Bhatta Chowk, Liberty Market, Akbar Chowk, Thokar Niaz Baig, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Jorray Pul, Bekhewal Morr, Mozang Chungi and Lahore High Court Chowk. The party workers started reaching at these points and some other locations at around 8am and blocked the traffic. The protesters also blocked the route of Metro Bus Service by burning tyres.

The protesters included a good number of women and kids. The entire city continued echoing with party songs and chants of ‘Go Nawaz Go’ throughout the day. Riding on cars and motorcycles carrying party flags, many PTI workers continued roaming on the city roads. The protesters kept the roads blocked till they moved to the central point (Faisal Chowk on The Mall) to attend the key event, speech of Imran Khan.

Imran in his address warned the government of another plan at hand to stop the working of the state, demanding the ruling elite take practical steps for the formation of a judicial commission in next 48 hours to probe into the 2013 poll rigging.

“I ask the government to sincerely negotiate with us. Don’t push us to the point of no return. We have asked the rulers again and again for serious talks by accepting our demands agreed in the previous round of dialogue to probe into the poll rigging of 2013,” the PTI chief told a sea of his supporters at Faisal Chowk.

He added: We are protesting for the last 124 days and we can continue our war if the ruling elite will not accept our rightful demands to reform the electoral system. But, I want to make one thing very clear, I have a plan to stop the state operations and paralyse the government if the rulers will leave us with no choice but protest.

Imran claimed that the rulers have no other choice than accepting his rightful demands. Waving to the women and children, Imran said: I have the support of the entire nation and I will not go home unless I and my party men get justice.

He said, “The entire nation wants audit of the 2013 polls for restoring the spirit of the real democracy in the country and will not rest till the accountability of the rigged elections.” He said, “The nation not only wants pack up of the incumbent government but also of the entire corrupt system.”

Imran Khan said, “The time for hiding behind the stay orders to cover up the poll rigging is over and the rulers have to come up with an immediate solution of the issue, which can be addressed only through an immediate formation of a judicial commission.”

He further said, “The ruling party will have to return the foreign loans from their pocket if they will go home under the charges of the rigging.” The PTI chief also promised, “I will bring back the money looted by the ruling elite and former president Asif Ali Zardari from abroad.”

Khan further pledged ensuring the rights of the working journalists after coming into power, as he said most of the journalists were not getting proper monetary return for their services. He thanked the media persons, lawyers, traders, transporters, educational institutions, youth, women and all other segments of the society for making the provincial capital protest a success.

Imran demanded the government send former provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah to jail for his involvement in the murder of PTI worker Haq Nawaz in Faisalabad. He asked his party leaders and workers to be ready for another battle if the ruling party declines to accept PTI’s rightful demands.

Earlier talking to the media on his arrival at Lahore airport, Imran said that he could withdraw the December 18 countrywide blockade protest call if the government announces formation of judicial commission. He said dialogue with government was suspended for the last three months and the rulers reinitiated talks under pressure of shutdown protests.

He apologised from the Lahorites for the inconvenience caused to them and claimed that PTI was running this campaign for the greater good of the nation. Imran also addressed the party leaders and workers on six other points while on his way to the concluding point at Faisal Chowk.