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Scores injured as protesters, security personnel clash

Updated November 20, 2017


People climb on to a greenbelt near I-8 to get to the other side as Islamabad Expressway remains closed. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
People climb on to a greenbelt near I-8 to get to the other side as Islamabad Expressway remains closed. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a dozen police and Frontier Constabulary personnel alongwith scores of protesters were injured on Sunday when clashes broke out at Faizabad after demonstrators from the religious parties sit-in detained the Special Branch officials deputed to keep an eye on them.

Police baton charged and tear-gassed protesters in a bid to rescue their comrades, and in response participants of the sit-in pelted the security personnel with sticks and stones.

According to police sources, Special Branch officials were deployed near Sohan on the Islamabad Expressway to collect details and keep an eye on the protest, its leaders and the activists from religious groups who have amassed there.

On Sunday evening, some protesters spotted three persons who were acting suspiciously and managed to overpower them. The men were later detained inside the sit-in area, and were identified as police officials.

When word of their colleagues’ alleged abduction reached them, a police contingent moved towards the protesters and asked them to release the three officials. Sources said that the demonstrators resisted, leading to a physical confrontation.

Police use batons, tear gas to recover ‘abducted’ colleagues; residents fed up with blockade of main intersection

During the scuffle, six FC officials and around 10 police personnel were injured, while over a dozen protesters were also hurt. Police, however, claimed that none of the injuries were of a serious nature.

The three Special Branch personnel were eventually freed and taken to hospital for medical assistance.

Later, protesters armed with batons, rods and stones also attacked a picket near Sohan, police said. In retaliation, police baton charged the attackers.

During the clash, sources claimed that the protesters tried to abduct the Koral station house officer, adding that nine officials, including a superintendent of police (SP), two inspectors, four policemen and two FC officials were injured, while some of the attackers were also hurt. Over a dozen protesters were taken into custody after the clash.

Khanna police will register a case over the abduction of police officials and the subsequent after receiving medico-legal certificates of the injured personnel, police officials said.

Industrial Area police also registered a case over the protesters’ abduction and assault of an FC official, who was returning from a mosque after offering prayers in Sector I-8 on Saturday.

Residents’ woes

The war of attrition being waged between the members of religious parties – who have been camped out at Faizabad for nearly two weeks now – and the security personnel deployed around them, has taken its toll on life in the twin cities.

The daily routine of Mohammad Naeem, who lives in a housing society off Islamabad Expressway, has been badly affected by the sit-in at Faizabad.

“I was hoping that the issue would be addressed and my suffering would end this weekend,” he told Dawn. But after Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s press conference on Sunday, where the minister said the government would request the Islamabad High Court to give them another day or two to address the issue, had only increased his disappointment and frustration.

“For the past two weeks, I have been using alternative routes to reach Islamabad and my children have missed out on several school days, since it is impossible for me to drop them or pick them up on time. Now, it seems the matter will be further prolonged. This is not only going to put an additional financial burden on me, but is also taking a toll on my children’s education,” he said.

Faizabad is the primary entry and exit point between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Every day, thousands of people living in Zone IV and V – which includes rural areas, as well as housing societies such as Bahria Town, DHA etc – have to cross Faizabad to reach the federal capital.

Mr Naeem said that he shifted from F-11 to a housing society in Zone V a few months ago.

“I work in a government office in sector G-6 and my children study in a school located in sector H-8. Initially, I thought I would have a longer route to the office, but my children’s school would still be fairly accessible.”

But since the sit-in began, he said, the van driver who normally took his children to school has refused to take them. “Now, I have to drop them, but in order to pick them up, it have to leave the office around noon. It normally takes three hours to reach my house at that time,” he said.

Shahid Nazir, a resident of I-10, told Dawn the government should address the issue.

“It is the government’s responsibility to facilitate residents. If government is not capable of removing the protesters, it should accept their demands protesters and direct Zahid Hamid to resign,” he said.

Another resident, Mohammad Bilal, said the government should find a solution, either by forcibly removing the protesters or by accepting their demands, because residents of the twin cities had become fed-up of the situation.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that an operation against demonstrators would be the government’s last option.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2017