LAHORE: Police rounded up 40 suspects on Monday in connection with an attack on a vigil held by civil society to mark the death anniversary of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer on Sunday.
The arrests followed registration of an FIR under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Sections 365, 427, 183, 148 and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
More than 35 activists of civil society had gathered with banners, portraits and candles at Liberty Chowk when a group of people attacked the gathering. Over a dozen baton-wielding men tore the banners, portraits and posters and thrashed the activists.
A senior police investigator told Dawn that 40 suspects had been arrested for interrogation, all of them belonging to a banned organisation.
Police have identified one attacker as Mumtaz Sindhi and are raiding different places to arrest him. He said the suspects taken into custody were not primary targets.
The investigator said police would send pictures to the National Database and Registration Authority for identification because the real attackers were yet to be detained.
An organiser of the vigil, Diep Saeeda, told Dawn that she had been hit by something heavy and it was hurting. According to her, the SHO contacted her at about 3pm to discuss matters related to security. A police van was there when the attack took place but policemen acted as silent spectators, standing on the other side of the road.
Journalist Rai Shahnawaz said he was attacked although he had introduced himself as a media person, adding that the suspects also tried to kidnap him and bundled him into a car in which two armed men were sitting.
He said his right ear was wounded after he had been hit in the head with sticks.
Complainant Abdullah stated in the FIR that four armed men who were in a white car tried to kidnap a media person. They also attacked DSNG vans of TV channels.
He told Dawn that the activists had been holding the vigil for four years and no-one ever attacked them.
He said the activists were lighting candles when a young man appeared there, pulled out a knife and tore the portrait of Salman Taseer. He also shouted slogans in favour of Mumtaz Qadri (the killer of Mr Taseer).
Abdullah said there were about 15 attackers who came on two bikes and two cars. They attacked the participants with sticks.
Humyun Faiz, a witness, said the attackers thrashed the activists and raised slogans of ‘Long live Khatm-i-Nabuwwat and Sunni Tehreek’.
The attack sparked protests which were joined by members of Salman Taseer’s family, including his son Shaheryar Taseer, daughter Shehrbano and daughter-in-law Maheen Taseer.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2015