LAHORE: The number of arrests of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers reached around 400 till the filing of this report on Sunday in connection with 10 cases registered against them in various districts of the province.
Official statistics available with Dawn showed police had detained about 1,600 PAT activists under the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order before clashes started on Friday and arrested about 400 others for injuring policemen, making several of them hostage, damaging and torching a police station, vehicles and motorcycles and snatching official weapons. However, not a single clash was reported on Sunday.
In Lahore, police re-sealed all 10 entry/exit points of the provincial capital in the morning to block PAT activists from reaching Model Town and attending Youm-e-Shuhada gathering. Earlier, on Saturday night, all containers on the entry/exits points of the city had been removed to facilitate the commuters, trucks, oil tankers and ambulances stuck in traffic gridlocks for several hours.
DIG Dr Haider Ashraf told Dawn the containers were again placed on all entry/points on reports that the PAT workers in large numbers were reaching the city in buses during the day. He said the security threats also led to sealing of the roads.
Traffic movement partially allowed on entry/exit points of city
However, in a late night development, Lahore police, once again, began reviewing its containers/barriers strategy by placing them on roads, leading to the city, in such a way that only a single lane vehicular movement was possible.
According to a senior Punjab police officer, complete removal of containers in and around Model Town and at 10 entry/exit points would be subject to the approval of the provincial government but containers had been removed temporarily from all entry points to normalise the traffic flow.
The officer, however, said the containers would remain present along the roads entering the city to cope with any untoward incident linking PAT.
The DIG said no fresh clash had occurred in the city and anti-riot police remained present only for security at all blocked roads leading to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s residence and the Minhajul Quran Secretariat the whole day. He said 35 PAT activists were arrested from different places on Saturday.
A visit to the sealed areas of Faisal Town and Model Town showed that they had been turned into no-go areas for the citizens and all roads and arteries wore a deserted look.
Police increased number of containers at some roads and signals like the Jinnah Hospital traffic signal and senior police officers kept checking policemen on duty.
Hundreds of PAT workers managed to reach the Minhajul Quran Secretariat on foot despite police hurdles which suggested that police had adopted some lenient policy on the direction of the government.
“I reached the Minhajul Quran Secretariat from Walton Road and entered from a police picket,” said a PAT worker who added that some others had reached the place by using small streets and passages police could not block. Another activist said up to 600 workers had crossed the Akbar Chowk totally blocked with containers and barbed wires on foot.
Policemen were found absent outside the Minhajul Quran Secretariat and entry points of M-Block Model Town to avoid any mishap as most of the PAT workers were armed with sticks and clubs.
Policemen deployed at eight blocked entries into Model Town didn’t allow even residents of Faisal Town and Model Town to enter or leave areas and misbehaved with some citizens.
Most of the deployed police reserves were found exhausted and sitting on the ground. There were complaints from policemen and traffic wardens against non-provision of meals and drinks despite several hours of long duty. Some of them got drinking water and juices on credit from confectionaries.
However, a senior police officer, supervising the meal arrangements, claimed that nine mobile canteens had been serving meal and drinks to policemen from Friday and some delays were due to scattered deployments across the city. The officer said that up to 8,000 policemen were being served meals and drinks round the clock.
The cell phone service remained partially suspended in and around Model Town for security reasons.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014