LAHORE: Fierce clashes which broke out in different parts of the country between charged activists of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and law enforcement agencies on Tuesday reportedly left four people, including a policeman, dead.
Hundreds of protesters and policemen were injured and thousands of TLP activists and supporters were arrested and booked for attacking law enforcement personnel and blocking main roads and highways in protest against the arrest of their leader Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi.
The federal cabinet decided to deploy Pakistan Rangers in all major cities of the country during the holy month of Ramazan to maintain law and order and resolved that the present government would not succumb to any pressure of the TLP. “Every group has a right of protest and we are ready to hold talks with TLP,” said Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry at a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
Responding to a query, the minister said the government was ready to sit with the TLP but would not take any dictation from any group. He said the government would not allow any group to take law into its own hand.
Over 300 policemen in Punjab, including 97 in Lahore, had sustained injuries, many of them seriously, after the violent protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms. The Gujrat district police officer and Kharian DSP were among the injured.
Hundreds of people injured, thousands of protesters arrested; one policeman among dead; cabinet decides to deploy Rangers in major cities during Ramazan
Alleged use of firearms by TLP workers was a serious cause of concern for law enforcement agencies. Shooting policemen at shins showed the shooters were well trained in use of weapons.
In Lahore alone, four policemen were shot at and injured by the armed men of the TLP in the Shahpur Kanjran area. Similarly, two police constables were shot at and injured in Faisalabad.
Two video clips from Lahore in this regard showed policemen, Imran and Aslam, being rushed to a hospital with bullet wounds. In other video clip, an on-duty policeman was seen calling for help to dispatch more force, saying they had come under armed attack by the protesters in Shahpur Kanjran.
Shocked over the use of weapons by the TLP activists against unarmed policemen, the Lahore police authorities expended the scope of investigation to find out as to who was supplying guns to the protesters.
“The TLP armed men opened straight fire on the police and our four constables were injured,” Lahore DIG (operations) Sajid Kiani confirmed to Dawn while declaring it a dangerous sign of violent agitation.
Under a standing order, police had been deployed unarmed and allowed only to use anti-riot gear against violent protesters to avoid any mishap like that of Model Town, he said. “But it shocked us that the TLP men used guns against anti-riot force.”
DIG Kiani said when police reached Shahpur Kanjran to get the national highway cleared, announcements were made from nearby mosques, urging TLP followers to take on police. “Within 10 minutes, some 200 people joined those already present and attacked police,” he said.
The two other dead, according to police, were passers-by. One of them was shot dead in Faisalabad by TLP men while the other was hit by an object in Chowk Bahadurpur, Rahim Yar Khan, where the protesters clashed with police when the latter tried to get the national highway cleared.
Lahore police lodged 19 cases against the protesters, DIG Kiani said, adding that the city police managed to clear Shahdara, Imamia Colony, Thokar Niaz Baig, Babu Sabu and some parts of Ring Road by the evening.
Police also conducted a major operation in the Chungi Amar Sidhu area and got released Model Town SP (operations) Dost Mohammad Khosa and five other policemen. They were reportedly held hostage by the TLP activists at a power grid station near Chungi Amar Sidhu.
Shahdra and Thokhar areas of Lahore also turned into battlefields after hundreds of TLP workers not only turned violent but also took several policemen hostage.
In Shahdara, a constable died due to severe head and chest injuries after the protesters tortured him with clubs. His funeral prayers were offered at night in Central Police Lines.
The TLP activists had occupied and blocked 22 main roads, intersections and areas of the city. Reports of violence also came from Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Sahiwal and Gujrat. Following sensitivity of the matter, paramilitary forces were called in to take control of four violence-hit cities of Punjab.
Punjab Rangers took over control of the sensitive areas of Shiekhupura, Gujranwala, Chakwal and Rahim Yar Khan where the charged TLP workers carried out frequent attacks on police.
Reports from other parts of Punjab suggested that the TLP workers had occupied over 100 points, roads and major intersections of various cities of the province.
Over 1,400 activists of the TLP have been arrested from all over the province, Punjab police’s spokesperson told Dawn.
He said the Punjab police launched major operations and got cleared nearly 60 roads and areas. Dozens of FIRs have also been registered against the activists, representatives and leaders of the TLP, he added.
Due to the province-wide blockade, the supply of oxygen to state-run hospitals was affected, putting the lives of many Covid-19 patients at grave risk.
In Karachi, the protest continued for the second consecutive day on Tuesday with clashes between police and the TLP activists in a couple of areas but law enforcement agencies managed to clear most parts of the city for traffic.
A TLP spokesman said the party activists were staging sit-ins in Orangi Town, Korangi and Star Gate intersection on Sharea Faisal.
Early in the morning, police moved at six other sites of the sit-ins and forced the protesters to disperse.
In Orangi Town, emotional scenes were witnessed during the funeral of a young TLP worker who the party claimed was killed in police firing on Monday night.
The charged TLP workers pelted police mobile with stones and chanted slogans against the Sindh government.
In New Karachi, near Nullah Stop, hide-and-seek continued between police and TLP workers when the law enforcement agency intervened to open the main road for traffic. “The police came under attack and two personnel received head injuries after stones were hurled from the protesters. Both policemen were treated immediately and are out of danger now,” said a spokesperson for Karachi police.
In Mirpurkhas, scores of TLP workers held a demonstration outside the local press club in protest against the arrest of their party chief. Carrying banners and placards, the workers raised slogans against the government and warned that they would block all main roads of the country if their leader was not released.
In Larkana, police booked 22 leaders and workers of the TLP for blocking the Indus Highway near Bugti village on Tuesday. They were produced before the court of judicial magistrate who remanded them in jail custody for three days, police said.
In Peshawar, police arrested about 100 TLP activists after disrupting their sit-in near Pir Zakori flyover on Tuesday. An official told Dawn that police had on Monday detained at least 19 TLP activists.
A TLP activist was killed during a clash with police in Khuzdar on Tuesday. Hundreds of TLP workers and supporters blocked the Quetta-Karachi Highway at Khuzdar and suspended all kinds of traffic. They pelted law enforcement personnel with stones. Police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the violent TLP workers and supporters.
Some TLP activists were injured and taken to a hospital, where Hafiz Saleem Zehri succumbed to his injuries as he received a bullet at his head.
Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2021