LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on Friday night said that a party activist was killed and six others injured in a clash with police earlier and termed Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, murderer of the “15 martyrs.”
Speaking to the media, he said the group would have “no choice other than giving a final call of revolution to the entire nation to come out on streets and march towards Islamabad and provincial capitals to topple (the) government,” should the arrests of his followers continue.
He alleged that more than 500 followers were arrested by police in a campaign of intimidation.
Qadri, who is normally Canada-based, returned to Pakistan in June to lead what he terms a “peaceful revolution.”
Clashes between Qadri supporters and police in June left 14 activists dead in a rare example of political violence in the relatively peaceful Punjab province.
The cleric had previously announced “martyrs day,” a mass prayer session for the victims of June's violence to be held on August 10 in Lahore but it is unclear whether he plans to march on the capital the same day.
A religious moderate, Qadri commands tens of thousands of followers and held a disruptive four-day sit-in protest against the government in 2013, months ahead of the election that saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif come to power for the third time.
Earlier, sources in the Punjab administration told DawnNews that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif had issued orders to the police to arrest Dr Qadri.
The orders were issued as PAT workers armed with clubs clashed with policemen in Lahore Model Town, with reports of several people being injured.
Sources added that the government has also recommended to the federal government that Qadri’s name should be put in the Exit Control List (ECL).
PAT leader Rahiq Abbasi told DawnNews that workers will not allow any attempt to put Dr Qadri under house arrest.
He added that the entire nation was watching through the media the atrocities being carried out by the Punjab police against the party workers.
Abbasi vowed to turn every street and neighbourhood in Lahore into “a war zone” if the PAT chief is arrested.
Later, speaking to the media, Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashood alleged that the PAT was conspiring to disrupt the ongoing military offensive, Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan Agency. He said that Tahirul Qadri and his supporters had planned to attack seven districts in Punjab.
The PML-N leader said that law enforcement forces will not allow the ‘mob’ of Tahirul Qadri to disturb peace in the country.
Mashood said there was no place in Pakistan for those who do not abide by the law and the Constitution.
PAT workers clash with police in Model Town
The situation turned tense in Lahore’s Model Town when a large number of PAT workers broke through a police cordon blocking main entrances leading to the secretariat of Qadri's Minhajul Quran.
Television footage showed PAT workers armed with clubs chasing policemen stationed around the Model Town area. The youth wings of the PAT and the Tehreek Minhajul Quran armed with clubs were roaming the streets around the secretariat.
DIG operations Lahore Haider Ashraf said that the barricades will not be removed at any cost, and that an additional contingent of law enforcement personnel has been called in to quell the situation.
Lahore police has been carrying out an extensive crackdown on PAT office-bearers and activists with hundreds of detentions, and has blocked all entrances to Model Town to bar PAT workers from reaching the secretariat.
Qadri has announced that they will hold a ‘Martyrs’ Day’ on Aug 10 in protest of the killings of PAT workers in violent clashes in Model Town in June.
The cleric-turned-political activist has vowed to topple and jail government ministers by the end of the month.
Speaking to reporters earlier today, Qadri said the Punjab government was resorting to ‘state-terrorism’ in their crackdown against activists and supporters trying to reach his Model Town Residence.
The PAT chief claimed the government was carrying out mass-detentions of PAT workers and had blockaded all roads to his residence, turning the situation in Model Town similar to that in Gaza.
He said such tactics by the government will not stop ‘the revolution’.