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ISLAMABAD: Protests over Mumtaz Qadri’s execution began before most people had even heard the news. As information trickled in, religious workers and Qadri’s supporters began to gather at the usual spots on Monday morning.

But given their already-high state of alertness, police and law enforcement agencies kept the protests from spiralling out of control. Consequently, the ruckus at Faizabad and Murree Road did not spill over to downtown areas such as Saddar and Raja Bazaar, where life went on as if nothing had happened.

Soon after news of the execution spread, Qadri’s supporters gathered around his ancestral home in Sadiqabad, where his family had taken the body. Charged up after seeing the corpse, the angry mob then began to march on Islamabad.

Upon reaching Faizabad, the mob burnt tyres and blocked traffic, pelting nearby commercial buildings with stones. Protesters brandishing bamboo sticks held up traffic.

Capital to be ‘partially sealed’ on Tuesday, with added vigilance around seminaries

It was when demonstrators brought trucks to block the Islamabad Expressway that things turned ugly. A number of media personnel were manhandled and a couple of news vans were attacked.

Most of the demonstrators came from seminaries outside the twin cities. “We came down from Muzzaffarabad after hearing the news,” Mohammad Waqas told Dawn.

Abdur Rehman, a student from Layyah, said he and his companions had received word late on Sunday night and had hired a van to bring them to Islamabad.

Security personnel, acting swiftly, managed to contain the mob to the outskirts of the capital. They could not, however, stop them from blocking both Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road.

A large police presence was also seen outside the residence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who lives near Faizabad.

Clashes between protesters and law enforcement personnel were reported from Faizabad, Tramri and Athal Chowk in Bhara Kahu, where demonstrators set fire to tyres and rubbish and damaged public and private property.

A senior police officer told Dawn, “We avoided a confrontation with the protesters, who remained at a distance from law enforcers while protesting. A confrontation may have provoked them, which may have caused the agitation to spread,” he added.

In view of the prevailing law and order situation, the capital city is expected to be ‘partially sealed’ on Tuesday, with added vigilance around seminaries and religious leaders, police and local administration told Dawn.

The capital will be on high alert and precautionary measures would be taken to intercept rallies and gatherings that tried to make their way towards the Red Zone.

With Qadri’s funeral prayers expected to be held in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Tuesday afternoon, police have chalked out a plan to ensure that no untoward incident takes place.

Qadri is expected to be buried at a local graveyard in Athal Village, Bhara Kahu, where his father-in-law, who is also his paternal uncle, and maternal grandfather live, a police officer told Dawn.

The family of the deceased has been asked to proceed to Faizabad after the funeral, from where police will escort them to Athal Village. Only family and close relatives of the deceased would be allowed to proceed along with the procession, the officer said, adding that everyone else would be stopped at Faizabad.

In addition, officers from various parts of the capital have been asked to arrange containers to block the entry points of the capital at Bhara Kahu, Faizabad, IJP Road and Tarnol, while a few would also be on hand to block entrance to the Red Zone, if necessary.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2016