ISLAMABAD: A day after reaching an agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leadership for ending their sit-ins, the federal government on Saturday ordered a “crackdown” against “miscreants” involved in damaging public and private properties and vehicles during the protests.
The directives for action against the miscreants were issued by Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi after he received a briefing from different agencies about the damage suffered by the government and people during the three-day protests by religio-political groups over the Oct 31 Supreme Court verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi of a blasphemy charge, says an official announcement.
It says that cases will be registered against “all those miscreants who under the guise of peaceful protests caused destruction to property and harmed unarmed citizens”.
Through the statement, the ministry has welcomed the stance taken by the Ulema that they were not involved in any violence and some “miscreants” were involved in the destruction caused to properties. It says that efforts are being made to identify the miscreants with the help of video footage.
Cases to be registered after identification of culprits through video footage
“Cases will be registered and legal action will be taken against all the miscreant elements to be identified,” says the statement.
It further says that the Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have been directed to monitor and investigate provocative material being circulated on social media to incite hate. The head of the Cybercrime Wing and the PTA chairman have been instructed to obtain “forensic data of the miscreants.”
“The interior ministry will initiate criminal proceedings against all those spreading extremist and hateful propaganda on social media,” it says.
The government took the decision to take action against the troublemakers amid criticism against it for striking a deal with the protesters in which there has been no mention of the damage caused to the properties of innocent people.
Similarly, the government is facing criticism for not taking any action against those leaders of the protest who had threatened the judges and used seditious language against state institutions.
Talking to Dawn, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said it would be wrong to say that the government had surrendered before the protesters through the agreement.
Refusing to speak further on the matter, he said presently they were only doing firefighting and a prolonged strategy would be prepared to meet any such situation in the future and to establish the writ of the state in a more effective manner.
Earlier in the day, Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed had said that the government had decided to take action against those miscreants who destroyed state property along motorways and highways during the protests.
He said that it was the “time to establish that calls for protest shouldn’t be taken as a licence to destruction”.
The minister said that videos and images of the protests over the apex court’s decision would be scrutinised to identify the perpetrators who caused damage to public property.
“The Constitution permits peaceful protests, but under no circumstances damaging public and private property under the garb of protests,” the minister remarked.
He said the property along national highways was damaged all over the country and now billions would have to be spent on repair works.
He said it was commendable that the protest leadership had distanced itself from those who created havoc in the garb of protests.
In Lahore, police have registered 11 FIRs in different police stations against 1,500 people under various charges, including terrorism. Similarly, Islamabad police have booked nearly 250 protesters for injuring policemen and damaging state property.
Sindh police have also reportedly decided to register cases against the organisers of sit-ins over charges of riots and damaging property on behalf of the state or on the complaint of aggrieved persons whose properties were damaged.
A police officer pointed out that Korangi police station has already registered a case on the complaint of the watchman of a factory in the area, as around 15 to 16 protesters tried to ‘forcibly’ shut the industrial unit and resorted to riots on Friday.
Inspector General of Sindh police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Saturday presided over a meeting at Central Police Office in Karachi where he was quoted to have said, “Whatever happened during the last five days... I feel great regret over it.”
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2018