LAHORE: Punjab police arrested 1,100 suspects till Sunday evening and registered 130 cases against them for their involvement in injuring policemen and people and damaging public and private properties during the protests following the Supreme Court verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charge.
The crackdown was launched after the interior ministry directed all the provincial governments and federal agencies to take action against the culprits involved in violence and damage to public and private property during the last week protests and sought compliance report till 5pm on Monday (today).
The interior ministry sent first letter in this regard to the provinces on Saturday and followed it up with another office memorandum on Sunday , directing all (provincial governments and federal agencies) to strictly comply with the direction.
Crackdown was launched after interior ministry called for compliance report by Monday
Stating that the Ulema had disowned the elements involved in violence, the interior ministry said video clips and photographs should be used to identify the miscreants in coordination with the PTA and Nadra.
The Punjab police spokesperson told Dawn 800 people were arrested for violating section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1960 and 300 others under the FIRs registered for injuring policemen, damaging public and private properties and vehicles in different areas of the province.
She said the protesters had injured 63 police officers in different areas of the province who were shifted to nearby hospitals for treatment. Of them, 58 policemen were discharged but five others who had sustained severe injuries were still getting treatment.
She said 300 suspects were identified through different footage available to the police. She said the number of the FIRs and the arrested would increase with the passage of time as the police were taking across-the-board action against the miscreants.
Answering a question, she said most of the arrests had been made from Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Rawalpindi divisions. The Islamabad police registered two FIRs against 25 people.
Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi chaired a meeting in Islamabad on Sunday and took stock of the situation. The meeting asked the provinces that general public should be advised to file/ lodge complaints against such people, share videos and help government in identifying such elements.
The interior ministry also asked all the provincial governments to convey WhatsApp numbers to general public through electronic and print media so that public could send information/ videos that might be referred to relevant departments for necessary action.
Phoolnagar police in Kasur registered cases against 348 protesters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), including 48 nominated, under various sections including section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act.
The TLP activists had allegedly attacked police force on Friday on Multan Road at Jamber Chowk and injured six personnel, including a DSP, an inspector and four constables. The protesters had also damaged six police vehicles, an ambulance of Rescue 1122 and several vehicles stuck on Multan Road due to road blockade.
According to the FIR lodged on the complaint of Phoolnagar SHO Muhammad Azam, 48 nominated including four local prayer leaders and 300 unidentified agitators had attacked police when the later tried to prevent them from delivering anti-judiciary and anti-state speeches.
Receiving information, Pattoki circle DSP Muhammad Saleem along with a heavy contingent of police reached the spot.
The protesters who wielded weapons and clubs went violent and attacked the police. The protesters used clubs against police officials and pelted them with stones.
The FIR said the protesters also kidnapped two police constables Jahangir and Iqbal. Most of the nominated accused belonged to Kot Tank Singh village. Four local prayer leaders — Qari Nazar Imam, Mufti Naveed, Zainul Hassan and Qari Abdul Shakoor — were also nominated in the FIR. Police said additional force had been deployed in Phoolnagar and raids were on to arrest the accused.
In Gujranwala, police registered cases against nine identified and 2,500 unidentified people for thrashing citizens, damaging government and private properties and looting people on roads.
The Kotwali police DSP told Dawn video clips had been sent to the interior ministry to identify the culprits.
In Sindh, Nawabshah police booked two activists of TLP for resorting to aerial firing and forcing businessmen to close shops.
An FIR was lodged at A-Section police station against Bilal Arain and Sabir Arain under sections 147, 148 and 337 H II of the Pakistan Penal Code for carrying out aerial firing and forcing traders to shut their shops. The police arrested both the accused.
Similar cases were also registered in Karachi.
Afzal Ansari from Kasur, Akram Malik from Gujranwala and our staff reporter from Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2018