Condemnation followed from all sections of society on Wednesday's police actions to contain and impede the PTI's long march to Islamabad.
Tensions in Punjab rose after police made use of tear gas and arrested several PTI marchers in cities across the province as supporters attempted to remove shipping containers blocking routes to Islamabad. The police also baton-charged protesters near Lahore's Aiwan-e-Adal. Clashes between the police and protesters were also reported in other areas of Lahore such as Islampura, Karim Park, Mohni road and Badami Bagh.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas noted the government had hurt itself through the use of force.
"Another sad day in the charred democratic history of Pakistan," he rued.
Journalist Cyril Almeida termed the day's events as an "ugly overreaction" on the government's part.
Pakistan correspondent for the New York Times, Salman Masood, remarked the government had used "ham-handed tactics" to contain the PTI in Punjab.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist Mubashir Zaidi seemingly expressed scepticism on the Punjab government's claims of recovering weapons from the PTI earlier in the day.
"Our police are adept at retrieving such weapons on their own after placing them. Who knows this better than we people of Karachi," he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was "deeply concerned" at the highhandedness displayed by law enforcement agencies. It said the "state's overreaction" had triggered more violence than it had prevented.
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq called on all sides to cease fighting for "personal, party and group interests" and instead focus their energy on Kashmir's freedom.
Tania Aidrus, former special adviser to the prime minister on Digital Pakistan, criticised the reports of internet services being curtailed. "Turning off the internet for a nation of 220 million people is the single worst thing a government can do," she hit out.
The treatment meted out to PTI leader Yasmin Rashid invited particularly strong uproar and criticism.
Footage showed police stopping Rashid's vehicle in Lahore. An exchange of words could also be seen after police reportedly attempted to yank out the key of the vehicle she was travelling in.
Video aired by broadcasters showed police landing blows on a vehicle — purportedly Rashid's — as it tried to pass through a cordon at Bati Chowk. A non-uniformed individual with his face covered could also be seen in the footage, hitting the vehicle forcefully.
Later, the PTI tweeted a video of the vehicle with its windshield broken as Rashid was in the driver's seat.
Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir said Rashid had always been a "symbol of courage" while Interior Minister Rana Sananullah was "a symbol of tyranny and terror when in power". He added that she was attacked in "typical Gullu Butt fashion" today — alluding to Shahid Aziz, the infamous baton-wielding man who was caught vandalising property during violence in Lahore's Model Town in 2014.
"Dr Yasmin Rashid is not only PTI's leader but a national leader due to the way she managed the Covid crisis despite her ailing health," said activist and academic Ammar Ali Jan.
Jan said the way she was treated was "absolutely shameful" and would be etched in memory as an "act of gangsterism".
"Thuggery. Absolutely unacceptable," said comedian Shehzad Ghias Shaikh.
Journalist Sophia Saifi lamented the treatment being meted out to the woman who "led Punjab through a once in a century pandemic".
Geo News anchor Muhammad Junaid questioned why the Punjab police felt the need to smash Rashid's car.
Header photo: Policemen detain a demonstrator (C) during a protest rally in Lahore on May 25. — AFP