KARACHI: Amid a complete ban on gathering of people for holding congregational Friday prayers in the city, enraged people in Liaquatabad resorted to violence and assaulted policemen who tried to take into custody a prayer leader for violating the government restrictions.
Police said that the prayer leader of Jamia Masjid Ghousia in Liaquatabad No 7 had allegedly instigated the people, who beat up the policeman. Two of the policemen reportedly took shelter at a house in the neighbourhood to save themselves from the wrath of the people.
Witnesses said the police fired into the air to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
A spokesman for the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Mohammad Ali, told Dawn that the incident occurred when the police allegedly beat up worshippers.
Case registered under antiterror law
He claimed that the TLP workers saved the police from the angry mob.
On Friday night, police arrested the prayer leader of the Liaquatabad mosque and six others and registered a case against them under relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code read with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
The police said that cases were also registered against prayer leaders of five other mosques for leading the congregational Friday prayer by violating the government ban.
Earlier, Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said the prayer leader and four trustees of the said mosque in Liaquatabad were arrested on charges of violation of the lockdown measures and manhandling the policemen.
The incident was subject to verification and a probe had been launched to ascertain as to how it happened, he said.
“There are two elements being probed as to whether the held prayer leader asked the people to gather for the prayer and whether he instigated the mob for violence when the police intervened,” he said, adding: “If it’s proved that the pesh imam instigated the people, then relevant sections of law will be invoked against him and others in the FIR.”
The city police chief conceded that the policemen were assaulted and it was being looked into whether they fired into the air as being shown on social media or if it was some other incident.
Complete lockdown for three hours enforced: IGP
Meanwhile, almost a complete lockdown was witnessed in Karachi and other major cities of Sindh and barring ambulance and rescue services, all kinds of public movement was completely banned by the provincial authorities.
Roads looked deserted where additional checkpoints were set up with fresh deployment of law enforcers amid increased patrolling.
“There was strict compliance [of the lockdown measures] from 12:30pm to 3:30pm,” said Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar.
A heavy deployment of police and Rangers was made outside mosques to prevent people from coming out of their homes to offer congregational Friday prayer.
Police officials claimed that barring Liaquatabad, the prayers were offered in mosques as government allowed a limited number of worshippers in each mosque to gather.
Even at the Memon Masjid up to seven persons offered the Friday prayer today, an official said. A law and order situation had developed at the mosque last Friday when several hundred people offered prayers there.
The city police chief told Dawn that there were estimated 10,000 mosques in Karachi and almost all gave a positive response except a few in district Central.
The people gave a good response as there was a complete lockdown for three hours in the city while police, Rangers and army played a proactive role, he added.
Meanwhile, DIG-East Nauman Siddiqi said there was a complete lockdown in his zone and no single arrest was made.
The South zone police said two persons were held in Lyari on charges of violation of the lockdown.
In the West zone of police’s organisational structure, five violations, other than those in Liaquatabad, of the congregational prayer ban were reported and as many cases were registered against prayer leaders and some others.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020