LAHORE: Who ordered the firing on the supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri in Model Town? As the question was repeatedly asked on Tuesday, there was no straight answer from the police.
No immediate action against policemen leading the operation suggests that the ‘top man’ of the province might have given the ‘go-ahead’.
Senior police officers associated with the anti-encroachment operation in and around Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) chairman Tahirl Qadri’s residence and near-by Minahjul Quran Secretariat adopted a defensive strategy. They put the entire blame on the PAT activists for resisting the drive and attacking policemen.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Chaudhry Shafique Ahmad told reporters at the Central Police Office that police remained defensive for several hours against PAT activists.
The incident came at a time when its chairman had already announced his June 23 Pakistan visit for a series of demonstrations countrywide. This made it easy for PAT workers to project the raid as politically-motivated. However, the police officers leading the operation denied any pre-planned move against the PAT. They claimed they were assisting City District Government of Lahore (CDGL) officials in removing barriers from roads leading to the PAT premises.
The anti-encroachment action in this case came at an odd moment, at midnight contrary to the routine morning raids.
The CDGL staff was accompanied by the police in large numbers which was also unusual.
Interestingly, in this instance not even a single police official was immediately held responsible for mishandling and criminal negligence. This is contrary to the past practices when the chief minister had ordered summery suspension of officers accused of negligence or excess.
According to a neighbour, he had been seeing barriers and bunkers outside two PAT places for the last three years or so. He said policemen were also routinely seen guarding barriers.
A police source, who was present at the crime scene, told this reporter that PAT activists first pelted CDGL and police officials with stones to resist the removal of barriers and then some gunshots fired in air by PAT activists present in bunkers forced the policemen to run away.
He claimed later on the directive of a senior police officer, police began straight fire on PAT workers.
The source added some seven or eight divisional SPs were also seen commanding the force with divided strategy as some put focus on straight fire and others insisted dispersing activists through other means.
The CCPO, now made OSD, claimed that they held two negotiations round with the chief security officer of Minahjul Quran Institute in the morning, asking him to remove hurdles on their own. PAT activists deployed at roofs and bunkers again started firing at police and CDGL officials. He claimed activists also used patrol bombs against police, but police kept showing patience.
He said police resorted to baton charge and used shelling which helped CDGL officials to remove hurdles.
Mr Ahmad, who initially claimed that killings might be the result of firing by PAT activists, later said he could not determine at this point who killed who, adding the judicial inquiry and police investigation would fix the responsibility. Inspector General Mushtaq Sukhera said a three-member departmental committee had been constituted to determine criminality of any police official.
Faisal Town police lodged a case against seven nominated people, including general-secretary Khurram Nawaz Gandapur and Sheikh Fayyaz and CSO Altaf Shah, eight unidentified gunmen and hundreds of unidentified workers.
The case was lodged under Sections 302/34, 324, 353, 148,149, 290, 291 of Pakistan Penal Code and 7-Anti Terrorism Act.
Responding to a question as to why a case was not lodged against police, the IG said police would also take action on receiving application from aggrieved families of PAT.
Police took 53 PAT activists into custody during clash and claimed to have seized two Kalashnikovs, three pistols and 33 empty shells from the crime scene.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014