FAISALABAD/ISLAMABAD/LAHORE  - A PTI activist was shot dead on Monday as hundreds of anti-government protesters clashed with riot police armed with water cannons and batons in the central city of Faisalabad.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf led by Imran Khan had vowed to paralyse the city as part of its efforts to topple the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom it accuses of poll-rigging.

PTI workers clashed with supporters of Nawaz Sharif as well as with riot police, who baton-charged them as parts of Faisalabad came to a standstill. The death sparked further protests and reinvigorated the opposition movement.

A 22 year old worker, identified as Haq Nawaz, was killed after a firing incident during the protest at the Novelty Bridge while another was seriously injured. A doctor in a Faisalabad hospital confirmed the death and said five wounded were being treated.

A man in civilian clothes was seen wielding a pistol and firing gun shots in the air. Some reports said an armed person was carrying out straight fire at the PTI workers due to which four persons were wounded.

PTI announced countrywide day of mourning today (Tuesday) to protest the killing. PTI chief Imran Khan said supporters of Sharif’s party carried out the attack and he lashed out at police. The PTI on Monday also called off talks with the government. “Talks cannot continue in the current environment. The government has no right to stop peaceful demonstrations,” said PTI leader Arif Alvi.

The clashes in Faisalabad sparked protests in various other cities of the country. PTI protesters in Lahore blocked off GPO Chowk on The Mall. Party activists in Karachi also staged protest demonstration on Shahra-e-Faisal. Reports of protests were also received from Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Jaranwala, Multan, Hyderabad, Peshawar and other cities.

Addressing the workers at D-Type Chowk in Faisalabad, Imran Khan on Monday night said that the people of Faisalabad sacrificed today for a good future and Haq Nawaz’s martyrdom will get a ‘New Pakistan’ for us. He promised to get justice for the deceased’s family.

He alleged that Federal Minister of State for Water and Power Chaudhry Abid Sher Ali and former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah created this situation with a plan. He thanked the workers for shutting down entire city on his call. “NA-122 voter bags have been opened and now the entire nation will see why government was afraid of election probe”, he said.

Talking earlier to media on Faisalabad Airport, Khan said that firing bullets at unarmed workers was not democracy. He threatened that PTI may give a call for besieging Jati Umra (Nawaz Sharif’s residence) if the government didn’t change its ways. Changing his plan, Imran Khan went to Sanaullah’s residence instead of Ghanta Ghar Chowk. His car was stoned at Lakkar Mandi.

Earlier, the cricketer turned politician told reporters outside his home in Islamabad that his party was fighting for democracy. “In the democracy a peaceful protest is right of everyone. It’s responsibility of the state to protect a peaceful protest, but instead the rulers unleashed their Gullu Butts for bloodshed in Faisalabad.“

PTI chief said, “Our workers were being shot at in the presence of the police... Our crime is that we demand justice... A man was opening fire at the PTI activists and the law enforcing agencies were posing as silent spectator in the incident”, he said. It is an old habit of PML-N to resort to violent ways, he added.

Khan said the government attacked Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) activists in Model Town Lahore and his party supporters in Jhelum, Gujranwala and other cities. “They are a product of military dictators. Where were they when General Pervez Musharraf was in power?” PTI chief said if the rulers think of PTI supporters as “Burger and Singing activists”, they should think twice before confronting the PTI crowd in Lahore.

During the day, pitched battles were fought near Rana Sanaullah’s office (Dera) where the deadly shooting came. As PTI workers gather and tried to enter his office premises, police resorted to firing tear gas and hurling stones at the protesters. Further, stick-wielding PML-N workers also gathered outside their leader’s office and clashed with PTI protesters.

PTI leader Ejaz Choudhary said that the man suspected of killing the PTI worker was a guard of Sanaullah’s son-in-law. Imran in his speech said that Sanaullah had said that “he will deal with all of them”. Imran also visited the home of deceased party activist.

Rana Sanaullah however denied the suspected killer was a worker of his party or had any connection with him or his son-in-law. “If this is proved, I can be held responsible... this is absolutely false,” he told a TV channel. He said PTI top leadership including Imran and Sheikh Rasheed were responsible for violence in Faisalabad.

The Punjab government has also officially denied any connection with the man. Police registered an FIR and said the suspected shooter was identified as Shahid, a resident of Saman Abad area. Government also announced Rs 5 million on his arrest.

PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that ruling PML-N had engineered a plot to launch violent attack on PTI rally in Faisalabad. Talking to media he said it is the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order situation but N-League workers were brought forward instead.