Police, PML-N workers clash outside Lahore NAB office

Updated 12 Aug 2020

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PAKISTAN Muslim League-N leader Maryam Nawaz points to the damaged portion of her vehicle’s windscreen after the fracas in front of the NAB office on Tuesday. — White Star
PAKISTAN Muslim League-N leader Maryam Nawaz points to the damaged portion of her vehicle’s windscreen after the fracas in front of the NAB office on Tuesday. — White Star

• Maryam, lawmakers among 300 booked, 50 activists held
• PML-N seeks to lodge FIR against PM, NAB chairman
• Anti-graft body lashes out at ‘goons of PML-N’

LAHORE: Violence erupted outside the National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) office on Tuesday as heavy police contingents and workers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz confronted each other shortly after the arrival of opposition party’s vice president Maryam Nawaz there in a land acquisition investigation.

Many people, including some officials, were injured and around 50 men were rounded up after police fired tear gas besides hurling back stones at the activists, with each side blaming the other for triggering the clash.

Ms Nawaz claimed the government had planned to “cause harm” to her through police action, while posting a video of her bulletproof car’s broken windshield on her twitter account.

In the late evening hours, the Chung police booked 300 PML-N workers, including Ms Nawaz and 187 other nominated people, for attacking law enforcers and NAB personnel and damaging the anti-graft watchdog’s building.

However, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the Chung police were not entertaining their complaint and said the party would have to move the Lahore High Court (LHC) for the registration of an FIR. The party filed an application against Prime Minister Imran Khan, NAB chairman Javed Iqbal, PM’s adviser Shahzad Akbar and the Punjab government for making an attempt on the life of Maryam Nawaz. She said the police attacked innocent PML-N workers at the behest of those nominated in the application.

The anti-graft watchdog had summoned her to record her statement in the investigation into illegal acquisition of 3,500 kanal of land in Raiwind by her, her father Nawaz Sharif, uncle Shahbaz Sharif and grandmother Shamim Akhtar.

A number of PML-N workers had already gathered outside the heavily guarded NAB’s Thokar Niazbaig office before her arrival from her Jati Umra house in a caravan on Tuesday afternoon. On her arrival, the charged workers surrounded her vehicle and chanted slogans in favour of the party leadership and against the ‘NAB-Niazi’ alliance.

Suddenly, a clash erupted between a group of workers and police standing guard outside the NAB office. The PML-N workers pelted stones at the law enforcers while the latter fired teargas shells to disperse them. Police were also seen volleying stones back at protesting PML-N workers angry over what they called ‘political victimisation’ of their leader.

As the clashes intensified, Ms Nawaz posted a video of the smashed windshield on her car on her twitter account and said: “My bullet-proof car’s windscreen is smashed. Policemen are throwing stones at my car. My security kept shielding me without any protection and defence. I salute each one of them.” She further said a bulletproof car’s screen could not be smashed by a stone. “It appears that something else is used to harm me,” she said while condemning police shelling, use of tear gas and batons on peaceful party workers.

While NAB conveyed to Ms Nawaz to return home as she would be summoned again in the case, she insisted that she would not leave without recording her statement. “If you (NAB) do not have courage to face me…you should have thought about it before. Now you called me, and instead of listening to me in the new ‘false’ case, you started pelting stones on innocent party workers and firing tear gas at them,” she told reporters outside the NAB office. She said she was advised to secure bail before recording her statement to NAB but she decided not to.

Later as she left the venue, the police intensified the baton charge on the fleeing PML-N workers arresting some 50 of them. A couple of journalists also received police thrashing. A senior police official told Dawn that they had arrested 50 or so PML-N workers. During the clashes, 14 police officials, including a lady constable and two NAB officials, suffered minor injuries, he said.

Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja believes that the PML-N workers led by Maryam had made this plan to do hooliganism on her appearance before NAB to put pressure on it in order to secure relief.

From NAB office, Ms Nawaz reached the party’s Model Town office and addressed a presser along with senior party leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pervaiz Rashid, Rana Sanaullah, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Pervaiz Malik.

“Today I faced NAB’s terrorism. Had I not been in a bullet-proof car there could have been a loss of life. There was an organised conspiracy behind calling me to the NAB office. They wanted to cause harm to me,” she said, adding that the police tortured and injured ‘unarmed’ workers.

After the recent Supreme Court observation, NAB itself had become a ‘wanted’ organisation, she alleged. “The Human Rights Watch’s report has proved that NAB is being used for political engineering, blackmailing and putting pressure on political opponents to facilitate the government. Not appearing before NAB is like following the law,” she said.

The PML-N leader claimed Mr Khan was jealous of her father, Nawaz Sharif. “Imran has no wisdom and no experience as he has been imposed on the people who are suffering immensely because of his bad policies,” she said.

“PTI and Imran are desperate to stay in power because they fear this is the only way to save them from accountability over the mass corruption, political victimisation and damage they have caused to the country. Imran himself has said that he has been given just six more months to get his act together and deliver. But he cannot do that even in 600 years because he lacks the ability, vision and focus,” she said.

About the multiparty conference, she said the party supremo had given clear instructions to use that forum to its maximum potential and cooperate with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in every way.

Meanwhile, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned police torture of political workers. “Condemn the unnecessary use of force, teargas and stone pelting on Maryam Nawaz and her party workers by police in Lahore today,” he tweeted.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman tweeted: “Shocking and condemnable behaviour by Punjab police at Maryam Nawaz’s vehicles at the NAB premises. What messages being given out? That even the security of political opponents of this regime is under threat?”

NAB files application for FIR

Later, the NAB filed an application at the police station concerned to register a case against 188 PML-N leaders and workers for attacking law enforcers and NAB officials. It nominated Ms Nawaz, her husband retired captain Safdar, Pervaiz Rashid, MNAs Rana Sanaullah, Khurram Dastgir, Javed Latif and Pervaiz Malik, former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair, Senator Musadiq Malik, Talal Chaudhry, Danial Aziz, provincial lawmakers Tahir Khalil, Azma Bokhari, Ghazali Butt, Khwaja Imran Nazir, Mirza Javed, Bilal Yasin, Pir Ashraf Rasool, Liaquat Ali and Yasin Sohail.

NAB said it had issued a call up notice to Mariyam Nawaz to record the statement in her personal capacity. “However she did not appear in NAB and miscreants of PML-N workers who pelted stones at NAB office and resorted to hooliganism. Such type of behaviour with a national institution was unprecedented in NAB’s 20 years history. The goons of PML-N had smashed the window glasses of NAB’s Lahore office, besides injuring the staff. That hooliganism of workers of PML-N forced NAB to cancel the appearance of Mariyam Nawaz.”

It further said NAB had decided to probe the incident in detail with the help of video clips, footage of TV channels that well thought out attack on NAB office by office bearers of PML-N and other anti-social elements.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020