Police tell Supreme Court what went wrong with Faizabad operation

Published November 30, 2017
Protesters from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Yah Rasool Allah throw rocks toward riot policemen during a clash in Islamabad on November 25.— AFP/File
Protesters from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Yah Rasool Allah throw rocks toward riot policemen during a clash in Islamabad on November 25.— AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A day ahead of the sit-in hearing, Islamabad police conceded before the Supreme Court that the security personnel who had launched a botched operation against the protesters at Faizabad interchange were fatigued due to prolonged deployment during the 20-day-long siege.

“Mixed deployment of different forces, including the police, Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Pakistan Rangers, also had negative effects on productivity,” said a nine-page report submitted to the apex court on behalf of Inspector General of Islamabad Police Khalid Khattak, adding that the religious sentiments of the men deployed for the operation were also provoked by the protesters through their speeches, thus making them a hurdle in effective utilisation of men.

Examine: Faizabad becomes Waterloo for security personnel

The report is expected to be taken up by a Supreme Court bench consisting of Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Thursday.

At the last hearing on Nov 23, the court had sought reports from the authorities concerned while taking up a suo motu notice on the chronic traffic congestion and roadblocks due to the Faizabad sit-in.

Two-judge bench is expected to take up report today

The police report explained that the mob/protesters were prepared and they even cut wires of all relevant cameras installed around the sit-in places within the jurisdiction of Islamabad and Rawalpindi through which their activities were being monitored. They were armed with stones, pistols, axes, rods, teargas shells and masks and were highly motivated religiously.

The report criticised the electronic media for live coverage of the operation as well cellular networks and social media which disseminated time of operation for giving the protesters final notice or deadline to vacate the Faizabad place.

Read: The 6-point agreement brokered by the army for Faizabad sit-in is a document of surrender

This went against the police and caused gathering of more protesters from the adjoining areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the report lamented.

During the operation, 173 officials or officers of the law enforcement agencies were injured by the protesters, but neither any government employee nor any private person died during the operation as no firearms were issued to any of the officers or officials deployed there. The police report also admitted that since the protesters were sitting on an open area, teargas did not work effectively.

Regarding the security plan, the report said that 5,508 officers/officials fully equipped with anti-riot equipment had been deployed at Faizabad interchange to disperse the protesters.

Initially, teargas and water canon were used when the operation was launched on Nov 25, but the protesters resisted and assaulted the police with batons and axes and pelted them with stones. The protesters were also armed with teargas and used it upon police force, the report said.

After hectic efforts of about four hours almost 80 per cent of the area was cleared from the protesters, but in the meanwhile, workers of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah from adjoining areas of Rawalpindi joined them and started brutal attacks on police force.

Resultantly, several personnel of police and other law enforcement agencies were injured and rushed to nearby hospitals.

Due to severe resistance by the protesters, there was an apprehension of loss of lives so the operation had to be stopped for some time and the force was reassembled to seal all incoming roads and streets so that another attempt could be made with full preparation.

Regarding the losses the nation suffered during the sit-in, the police report said that protesters burnt many vehicles owned by private persons as well as of the police. The police registered 27 cases from Nov 8 to 25 against 418 protesters, who were sent to the judicial custody after investigation and challans against them were being sent to the court of competent jurisdiction for trial.

The leadership of Tehreek-i-Labbaik had promised shifting to the Democracy Park to record their protest, after which they should have been dispersed peacefully, but they backed out later from the promise and staged the demonstration at the Faizabad junction while blocking the incoming and outgoing roads used by the general public.

Since the issue was of sensitive nature, the federal government as well as the district administration continued negotiations with the leadership of Tehreek-i-Labbaik to end their demonstration peacefully, the report said.

The Islamabad Capital Territory police under the directives of the Islamabad High Court and the district administration utilised all its resources to disperse the protesters as well as to shift them to Democracy Park, the report said, adding that extra force was also requisitioned from other provinces and Rangers personnel were also deployed at specific points after complete briefing on operations.

The police claimed that the operation was carried out with proper planning but due to strong resistance by the protesters and reinforcement by the workers of the Tehreek from nearby areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, it had to be halted temporarily to avoid any casualty, but when information came that countrywide protests had been started and problems were occurring to maintain law and order throughout the country, the operation had to be completely stopped.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2017

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